Ideas for collective industry promotion are percolating again. Last week, Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota hosted a summit that brought about 30 green industry leaders together to explore what could be done to unite the turf and landscape, nursery and floriculture sectors to work toward national promotion.
This initiative began with Dale Siems, past president and CEO of Sherman Nurseries in Iowa. For the past year, he has been talking to members of the nursery industry and learning more about existing programs that have the potential to be all-encompassing in both their financial support and activities–America In Bloom (AIB) and Project Evergreen. “We can’t give up on a national marketing program,” an enthusiastic Siems says. “We’ve got the best story in the world. We’re the original green industry and everybody is eating our lunch.”
For seven years, AIB has been a successful grassroots initiative on a very limited annual budget of $200,000, funded by industry contributions and registration fees cities pay to participate in the national competition. To date, AIB has actively engaged more than 160 cities ranging in populations from a few hundred people to millions. Combined, these cities represent 21 million residents in 37 states. AIB also has generated 250 million impressions in the national media with articles on participating cities.
Project Evergreen promotes the value of professionally maintained green spaces and began with the turf and landscape side of the industry. It has an annual budget of $650,000 and has launched innovative programs under its slogan, “Because Green Matters.” Activities include providing lawn care services for 5,700 military families under Green Care For Troops and creating an Evergreen Zone in the city of Akron to create public awareness for green spaces.
During the summit, Steve Cissel of 10-20 Media presented a Web-based idea that ties in nicely with consumer and media interest in environmental awareness called Oxygen Footprint. The idea is to help consumers create more oxygen with plants. They could go online and calculate their oxygen footprint and link to a wide range of local sources, including growers, garden centers and landscapers. Listing fees would help fund the promotion and all industry segments would be treated equally.
During the two days of discussions, the group doubted a national promotion order would be feasible to benefit all segments of the green industry equitably, but agreed there could be opportunities to work on common messaging and campaigns. The next step is to have a professional facilitator serve as a neutral third party to guide the industry toward a common message. The summit is expected to reconvene within six months and have more segments of the industry represented. This group was heavier on the nursery and landscape side than floriculture.