Economic Impact and Jobs
American’s city tree infrastructure -- our urban forests -- is under immense stress and strain. Media outlets have noted that in the past few decades Washington has lost half its tree cover; San Diego's is off about a quarter; the cover in cities in Michigan, North Carolina and Florida has fallen to about 27% of what it once was; Chicago and Philadelphia are just 16%. Ed Macie of the U.S. Forest Service has stated, "Urban deforestation compares with what's going on in the world's rain forests." (Time Magazine, 2007)
Revitalizing the vanishing green infrastructure of American cities impacts the economy of the cities significantly. Researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee found that new tree infrastructure increases city property values by 3-7% in raw numbers, and from 5% to 11% in perception. (Hall, Hodges and Haydu, 2005) Furthermore, the researchers noted the following:
Trees sold to municipalities for use in urban forest settings (e.g. parks and other recreational areas) have other economic and environmental benefits beyond those mentioned above. Once they have been installed into the urban landscape, they can result in substantial energy savings; reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide; improved air quality; reduction of stormwater runoff and hydrology; and enhanced aesthetic benefits.
Consumer surveys have found that preference ratings increase with the presence of trees in the commercial streetscape. In contrast to areas without trees, shoppers indicated that they shop more often and longer in well-landscaped business districts, and were willing to pay more for goods and services…. Research in public housing complexes found that outdoor spaces with trees were used significantly more often than spaces without trees. By facilitating interactions among residents, trees can contribute to reduced levels of domestic violence, as well as foster safer and more sociable neighborhood environments. (Hall, Hodges and Haydu, 2005)
Despite the losses, urban forestry continues to create jobs in the cities, and could have a far greater impact with increased support.
Statistics have demonstrated that like the green industry itself, urban forestry provides job opportunities for a wide range of potential employees, both skilled and unskilled. This includes public-sector positions: in 2002, there were 262,242 full-time parks and recreation employees across the nation, with projections for growth. (Hall, Hodges and Haydu, 2005) The current economic downturn greatly threatens these jobs, while new investments could strengthen the prospects for urban forestry employment and economic development in the cities.
Green industry jobs offer strong prospects to individuals both skilled and unskilled. Once an individual is employed with a green industry firm, opportunities abound for career advancement. Because the green industry is more labor intensive and hands-on than mechanized, money invested in green industry jobs has a direct impact on hiring.
Green Industry Wages
Kevin M. McCarron of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, "Experience in planning landscapes and installing and caring for plants provides fertile ground for careers.” He continues by stating, "Some of these occupations, such as landscape architect, require formal education; others do not. People often start out in grounds maintenance or retail jobs, for example, and work their way, by acquiring either education or experience or both, into occupations that require more skill and offer higher pay.” (McCarron, 2005)
The BLS notes that salaries in the green industry range from $20,420 for entry-level landscaping workers to $114,680 for chief executives. The chart below demonstrates the pay ranges:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
McCarron concludes, "Work with plant life is growing—in more ways than one. According to BLS projections, the occupations related to plants and landscaping will gain thousands of jobs between 2002 and 2012. Over this decade, employment for both landscape architects and landscape and greenhouse workers is expected to increase by about 22 percent. That’s faster than the average employment growth projected for all occupations.” (McCarron, 2005).
A more recent study conducted by the market research firm SBI (2008) found that the green industry market is expected to grow 10 percent in the next five years, despite the recession. In short, green industry jobs offer immediate economic impact for the hiring of a wide range of individuals, skilled and unskilled, and promise long-term career building prospects. The green industry is labor-intensive in nature, rather than machine-based, and will put Americans to work.