The Future Of Our Industry

Last week, I attended a conference in which leaders from the renewable energy industry met to discuss the future of the industry and how to revitalize it now that federal funding is no longer available for major projects.

There were leaders from all segments of the industry--representatives from public regulatory agencies, CEOs from technology development companies, leaders from major utility companies throughout the United States, and representatives from major financial services companies.

Throughout the day, a panel discussion was held for each of the above-mentioned groups. There were five people on each panel and a moderator. Each panel member gave a short presentation about his company or organization, then the floor was opened for questions.

I was impressed by the very candid nature of the discussion that day. Difficult questions were asked about the status of the industry and what could be done to move it forward.

Each industry panel had the opportunity to share its opinions of the state of the industry as they saw it. Panel members also shared opportunities that they felt would be beneficial to move the industry forward as whole.

For example, the financial panel members were virtually unanimous in their opinion that projects were getting funded, but via private loans. However, they also were adamant that the projects getting funding were solid projects with complete development plans in place, but also had a majority of the needed capital already secured.

Once the industry panels had completed their presentations and discussions, all of the moderators came together to form a final moderator panel to summarize their thoughts on events of the day and formulate action items for future discussion.

In all honesty, I believe more questions came out of the conference than answers. I believe the industry took a giant step forward and will continue to do so in the future.

One important consideration that was made was the need for further discussion that will occur through a series of one-day conferences over the coming year.

In the few days that have passed since the conference, I’ve really been thinking about the state of the landscape architecture industry.

We are still struggling. Jobs are still difficult to acquire and people are still being laid off.

I don’t know what the situation is like in other parts of the country, but here in Arizona, municipal projects are rarely funded.

While many firms are barely holding on, I sit and ask myself when will the tide turn and the industry shift?

Anyone who has worked in our industry for any length of time is aware that the economic feasibility of landscape architecture is very cyclical. We all believe the industry will eventually turn, but as to when, it is really anyone’s guess.

Thinking back to the renewable energy conference, I have to wonder if there isn’t something that we could be doing inside the industry to help ourselves. Granted, our industry isn’t federally regulated, but perhaps a series of discussions within our individual states would spur discussion and possibly motivation for municipalities and private developers to once again begin creating projects.

I know I don’t have all the answers when it comes to the state of our industry. I highly doubt anyone does. But wouldn’t it be something if we could come together and affect change from within and revitalize our industry sooner rather than later?

Hopefully, I’ve planted a seed of thought within you and you will nurture it and help it grow.

Do you have any thoughts on how to get our industry moving again? If so, I’d love to hear them. As always, you can leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: