Back in March, I had the pleasure of speaking at the IANY spring general meeting. One of the topics I touched on was the state of the Long Island economy and its potential impact on the upcoming irrigation season. What I think is important is we can’t compare many current aspects of the irrigation economy to what existed pre-2007. We must adjust to the “new norm.” So what is the “new norm”?
During the last several years, almost all irrigation professionals, my company included, had to do some soul searching, and make adjustments to how we operated our businesses. We streamlined our operations, cutting overhead expenses wherever possible. We postponed truck and equipment replacement, choosing to repair what we already owned. We examined our employees’ compensation and benefits packages, asking them to take cuts to help us through the tough times pointing out that we, as business owners, had already done so. Many of those companies that did not make these adjustments are not in business today.
So with these adjustments, our new leaner companies have been able to tread water the last several years and, I believe, are poised to benefit from improvements in the economy.
Since I spoke in March there are continuing signs that the economy is improving. Real estate sales are booming and new housing starts are at a five-year high. Sentiment among single-family homebuilders hit a seven-year high in June amid optimism over current and future home sales. Statistics show the majority of existing home buyers typically make landscape improvements within the first five years of purchase, and those landscape changes will need irrigation, whether new or modifications. So I think it is safe to say things are definitely improving and our new leaner irrigation companies will benefit from the improving conditions.
Robert Dobson is president of Middletown Sprinkler Company in New Jersey and president of the national Irrigation Association.