April 29, 2011

Economic Recovery Brings Immigration Debate Back To Forefront

During the last recession, the green industry got a bit of a reprieve in that the country’s attention was focused on the economic downturn. Now that things are improving, dialogue regarding various immigration policies is resurfacing, particularly among the enforcement only camp. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently conducting I-9 immigration audits at many greenhouse, nursery and landscape businesses across the country. Even if you are in compliance, the results can be devastating as you are forced to terminate experienced and valued workers. Poor compliance practices can mean thousands of dollars in fines – or worse. While the impacts of an audit cannot be completely avoided, smart preparation can save you time and money. Compliance is only one facet of the immigration reform issue, though. Craig Regelbrugge, ANLA vice president for government relations, who co-chairs the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR), will give a brief update […]

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April 29, 2011

Color Spot Leasing Hines Locations

Hines Nurseries has signed a letter of intent to sell assets from its nurseries in Chino Valley, Ariz., and Fulshear, Texas, to Color Spot Nurseries, the largest greenhouse operation in the United States. Hines will own and operate the nurseries until closing in June 2011, when Color Spot will purchase the assets of the facilities and lease the land from Hines. Hines, which also sold assets from its location in Fresno, Calif., will continue to serve its customers nationwide from nurseries in Fallbrook and Winters, Calif., and Forest Grove, Ore. “Focusing on the nursery business for all our customers is the next step in our strategic plan to rebuild Hines,” says Steve Thigpen, Hines CEO. “This is a milestone in our long-range strategy to transform Hines Growers into a strong, progressive nursery company.” Hines’ Arizona location encompasses 40 acres of nursery and 400,000 square feet of greenhouse space. Its Texas location includes 420 […]

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April 28, 2011

Poll: Majority Favor Immigration Reform With Pathway to Citizenship

A small majority of likely voters favor comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with no criminal record–but not amnesty–a new IBOPE Zogby Interactive survey finds. The survey, conducted from April 21-25 also finds nearly half (47 percent) believe reform legislation should require that the undocumented be deported, even if it splits up their families. Almost three quarters (73 percent) support increased funding to patrol U.S. borders. Learn more about the results at www.zogby.com.

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December 29, 2010

Supplementing The H-2A Program

A Midwestern grower, like many of his colleagues across the country, has a difficult time pinning down reliable, hard-working Americans to work in his greenhouses. He’s turned to H-2A on occasion for labor solutions, but the program is a costly one and litigation prone, so he’s looked for help elsewhere. Two places the grower has turned are the Communications for America Education Program (CAEP) and the Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee (MAST) program. Both have become great labor sources for him and easier to manage than H-2A. Both are also programs many growers know little about. “What I like about CAEP is they’re nice people to deal with, they are flexible and they try to find you the people who best match your individual situation,” says the Midwestern grower. “Some other programs do that, too.” MAST is a flexible program, as well, and it’s one the Midwestern grower heard about through […]

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December 22, 2010

The Power Of Service Learning Programs

Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprise (CMSE) is a sheltered workshop that has provided employment for developmentally disabled adults for 40 years. CMSE subcontracts assembly work for dozens of manufacturers in central Missouri, like 3M, Quaker Oats, Square D, ABC Labs, plus hospitals and publishers. It had flourished until last year, when several clients cut back due to the economy and outsourcing overseas. Executive Director Bruce Young was devastated. He would have to find more sources to keep 130 people employed. He sought help at his local Rotary Club meeting of business friends. Member Bill Regan answered the call: “Build a greenhouse!” So they did. The Project A greenhouse with 5,400 square feet was built adjacent to CMSE’s facility. Regan brought many skills to the new enterprise. He has a master’s degree in horticulture, 35 years of experience propagating geranium cuttings and he has garden center experience as an owner. He is […]

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November 22, 2010

HIRE Act: Tax Incentives For Hiring Unemployed Workers

Did you know the government enacted two tax benefits last spring available to businesses that hired workers who were previously unemployed or working part time? This could impact growers who laid off workers during the winter and rehired (or hired new) in the spring. Here are the facts: –Employers who hire unemployed workers after Feb. 3, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011 may qualify for a 6.2 percent payroll tax incentive (in effect, exempting them from their share of Social Security taxes on wages paid to those workers after March 18, 2010). –The reduced tax withholding has no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits, and employers still need to withhold the employee’s 6.2 percent share of Social Security taxes, as well as income taxes. The employer and employee’s shares of Medicare taxes would also still apply to these wages. –Also, for each worker retained for at least a […]

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January 14, 2010

Study Says Immigration Reform Is Best Solution

The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) shared its perspective with Congressional staff during a briefing that reviewed an important new study regarding immigration reform. The study, conducted by UCLA economist Raul Hinojosa, looked at three possible immigration reform scenarios: comprehensive immigration reform, a temporary worker program only and an enforcement-only scheme based on deportation.  The study found that comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization and flexible future visa programs will result in $1.5 trillion in economic growth over 10 years. By contrast, reliance on a temporary worker program alone would result in significantly less growth, and a deportation-only approach would bleed $2.5 trillion from the U.S. economy over the same 10-year period.  The study and implications were reviewed in detail in an afternoon Congressional staff briefing led by Hinojosa. Representatives from ANLA and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) then provided perspectives from business and labor. ANLA vice president […]

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January 6, 2010

ANLA Breaks Down Health Care Reform

The following analysis was provided by the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA). The complete analysis is available to members at ANLA.org. On Christmas Eve morning, the United States Senate voted to approve its version of a massive health care overhaul. The legislative process is far from over, and enactment into law is not assured. The next step will be for a conference committee to try to produce a final package that may borrow from both the earlier House-passed version, and the Senate bill. The ultimate question is whether moderates and liberals will step over lines already drawn in the sand, to approve a final bill that falls short of their respective goals. Early signs are that the House may largely defer to the Senate’s version, but many do not expect final passage until at least February. Though the process isn’t over, employers everywhere are scrambling to understand what the […]

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November 11, 2009

Clocking In & Out From Your BlackBerry

Exaktime introduces its PocketClock/GPS for Blackberry, software that transforms a BlackBerry smartphone into a portable GPS time clock and management tool for supervisors. PocketClock/GPS lets mobile employees or crews clock in and out at dozens of locations each week. “Having mobile employees use handwritten timecards costs companies a fortune,” says Exaktime CEO Tony Pappas. “With this new BlackBerry version of PocketClock/GPS, our customers can give their mobile teams and their managers a great automated timekeeping tool using the smartphone they already own.” Using PocketClock/GPS, workers easily clock in or out and record what type of work they are doing. Each time punch includes a GPS fix so the office knows the location of every clock in/out and can quickly view the travel times between locations. Managers can also set a virtual perimeter around each jobsite to highlight employees clocking in and out when they are not actually at the worksite. […]

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October 19, 2009

Immigration Laws In Need Of Overhaul

Let’s not quibble over semantics. Our nation’s immigration laws are broken. They remind me of a rusty truck with broken windows, propped up on crumbling cinder blocks in an overgrown back yard. No engine, no tires and out of gas. By now, I believe everyone agrees our immigration laws are outdated and don’t work. If they did, there would be legal avenues for those who want to come here to work in jobs Americans are unavailable or unwilling to do–at any price. It literally takes years to get a valid visa to work legally in the United States. By keeping America’s front door closed to economic migrants, our lawmakers have left them no choice but to slip through our backdoor. Frankly, our broken immigration system is not good for anyone. Labor Pains It’s one of the worst-kept secrets: labor-intensive industries like ours have a disproportionate share of workers without proper […]

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September 14, 2009

Lessening Labor Pains At Four Star Greenhouse

Jeff Back wants his production line supervisors walking the lines, encouraging employees and making sure cuttings are stuck at the correct depths. Back when Four Star Greenhouse used hand scanners to track inventory, some supervisors were preoccupied scanning trays as they were loaded on carts and spending less time working directly with employees. But ever since Four Star invested in stationary bar code scanners that track inventory and employee efficiency, supervisors are freed up to ensure quality cuttings are produced and employees are working at a more efficient pace. “There are a couple different reasons why we went with stationary scanners,” says Back, who serves Four Star as general manager. “First, we wanted to free up some labor. We had been using one of our supervisors to do the hand scanning as the product came off the belt. As carts were loaded, supervisors would scan trays on the carts to capture […]

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September 1, 2009

Investing In People

George and Louise Lucas share their success with long-term, dedicated employees. For instance, Lori Fletcher, who manages all the orders and systems that go with them, has been with the company 21 years. Head grower Joe Moore (pictured) has been there for nearly 30 years, starting at age 11. “We try to make Lucas Greenhouses a great place to work, like a family environment, and treat people fairly,” George says. “We want this to be a career. I try to emphasize to all the employees that as my business makes money, they will also make money, get a good bonus and pay raise. I make sure I share the business with everybody and am not putting all the money in my pocket. I know my business does not exist without them. You can have all the good ideas you want, but you have to put them into practice and execute, […]

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