Archive for the ‘news’ Category
This morning on NPR I heard a story on the construction industry in Texas.
Wade Goodwyn was rolling along in his raspy monotone about how the home building industry is booming again in Texas, but wasn’t necessarily a boon for the laborers. He had quotes from a homebuilder who said he couldn’t find American workers, who said he worried about the future of the construction industry thanks to the lack of interest from American students.
Who said he would get priced out of the market if he did everything by the book.
And sitting there in my car, waiting to head into the office, I thought, “Gee, that’s the same thing I hear from landscapers all the time.”
And then comes Trent. This guy, who wouldn’t give his first name to NPR for fear of the government coming down on him, hires guys he knows to be illegal, classifies then as subcontractors and then pays them all cash – about 70 bucks a day.
What happens then just isn’t his concern.
Trent says he doesn’t know if any of his guys are paying taxes. “That’s their business,” he says. “If I were to speculate, I would probably say they are not paying their Social Security [taxes]. I would also say that they’re probably not filing their income tax returns on a regular basis.”
He goes on to say that even with his bargain basement labor rates, he still gets underbid. Now, I don’t doubt that, especially in the DFW market, but his justification leaves a bit to be desired:
“If there wasn’t such a readily available supply of laborers that are looking for work in my exact line of business, then I would say I am doing wrong and that I should play by the rules,” Trent says. “I don’t feel as though I’m doing anything wrong.”
Translation: But, Mom! Everyone else is doing it!
To willfully circumvent the spirit of the law is just as bad as violating the letter, and this landscaper is putting a lot of people at risk. To blame your competition or the market for your own decision to flout the law is shameful. That’s no way to run a business, and no way to improve an industry.
Good news today from the big boxes. Home Depot reported fourth-quarter sales up 32% thanks to a revival in the nation’s housing market:
Home Depot, like its peers, has been benefiting from recent improvements in the housing market. The broad revival has made the retailer a popular choice with investors, pushing the stock up 36% in the past 12 months.
“We ended the year with a strong performance as our business benefited from a continued recovery in the housing market coupled with sales related to repairs in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” Chief Executive Frank Blake said on Tuesday.
The boys in blue are up, too:
Lowe’s chief executive, Robert A. Niblock, said the company was seeing a pickup in spending even in areas of the country hit hardest by the housing slump, like Florida, Arizona and California.
“Rising home values have given homeowners additional confidence in spending on their homes,” Mr. Niblock said in an interview.
I’m not an economist, but these numbers are consistent with what I’ve been hearing from landscape contractors around the country: Business is picking up again, if slowly, and consumers are starting to spend again.
A new study out from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says the nation’s commuters wasted a total of $121 billion in fuel and time in traffic in 2011.
The new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that Americans wasted an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. That also meant more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.
The worst commute in the country? Washington. Commuters in the nation’s capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to the report. That compares to the least congested city – Pensacola, Fla. – where commuters needed only nine extra minutes.
On average, Americans allowed for an hour of driving time for a trip that would take 20 minutes without traffic. The total nationwide added up to 5.5 billion additional hours that Americans spent in their cars during 2011.
Wherever you live, time spent wasted in traffic is never fun. To help, we’ve got seven ways to route your crews smarter.
And, if you can’t avoid the traffic, make the most of it: Head over to the Lawn Care Radio Network and download some of our great podcasts.
We’ve done it again! Starting right now, the newest version of our iPad and iPhone app is available in the App Store.
In 2011, we were the first magazine to bring you all our great content right to your phone and tablet, and with our January issue, we’re taking it a step further.
The new app has more interactive features, photos and sounds than before, and is custom-built by our team of in-house designers. It’s a true native app, which means you get all our content right on your tablet or phone. Think of it like upgrading from a reliable Ford F-250 to a shiny new King Ranch Super Duty.
Download it now for your iPad or iPhone.
Just in from our Cool Plant Research desk: A team of scientists at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center are working on a way to harvest dandelions as a source for natural rubber.
The Russian dandelions, a cousin of the hated yellow flowers seen in lawns across America, look similar, but contain extra-bouncy insides that scientists can use as a supplement to traditional sources of rubber.
The Russian species — known scientifically as Taraxacum kok-saghyz, or TKS – have long, thick roots that have the right mix of rubber polymers, proteins and fatty acids in them that contain a natural latex. Break open a TKS root, roll the sticky, milky white cream that oozes out around in your palm, let it dry and it will bounce like a ball.
You can read more about the science and techniques of extracting raw materials from these plants here.
A year after DuPont’s Imprelis herbicide was linked to widespread damage of non-target plants, the company’s professional products business will be sold to Syngenta for $125 million.
You can find the story and follow developments on our main news site.
A lot of this list from Inc. leans pretty far into get off my lawn territory, but the main point is sound: Don’t assume someone is good at social media just because they weren’t alive during the Reagan administration.
6. They may not understand your business. You are handing the keys to your social media kingdom to a newcomer, but there’s plenty that they need to understand beyond the social tools themselves. What are the nuances of your products or services? What makes you stand out in the marketplace? What are the typical expectations of your customers? How do you troubleshoot issues or cajole customers into working a bit more with you? What does your company stand for? No new hire will be able to absorb these issues overnight, of course–but a brand-new graduate will have an even steeper learning curve.
I talk to a lot of contractors who put their kid in charge of their social media, or who say that they have a “young guy perfect for this stuff.”
We address this in our July cover story on how to build your social media team.
As reported today in the New York Times, mobile payment service Square has partnered with omnipresent caffeine pusher Starbucks to make it even easier for you to pay for that double-shot every morning.
Square was founded by Jack Dorsey, the same guy who started Twitter, and lets businesses use their mobile devices as on-site cash registers to process credit card payments. I’ve used the service to purchase things, and it’s worked seamlessly every time.
So, apart from the fact that you’ll be able to pay without a wallet (or even taking your phone out of your pocket), this partnership means consumers could get a lot more comfortable with mobile payments.
Though smartphone payments have a long way to go before they replace wallets altogether, Starbucks’s adoption of Square will catapult the start-up’s technology onto street corners nationwide, and is the clearest sign yet that mobile payments could become mainstream.
“Anyone who’s going to break the mobile payments barrier in the U.S. has to overcome the resistance to try anything new when everything we have works really, really well, even cash, which is very convenient,” said Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine.
According to our latest research, 36 percent of landscapers use iPhones for both personal and business use, and just slightly less use an Android phone. Twenty-five percent use an iPad. Those numbers are up from 2011, and will continue to rise in the next few years.
So, to review: Increasingly wired customers are getting exposed to a more seamless way to pay on the spot for goods and services, while at the same time contractors are more and more equipped with the tools to run that very technology.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Make mine a double.
In the latest issue of Businessweek, we learn about the growing interest by private equity firms in buying up huge swaths of foreclosed homes and renting them out.
To date, they’ve spent more than $7 billion, mostly in the hard-hit markets of the Southwest, on vacant or abandoned single-family homes.
This could be a boon for landscape contractors, as the homes are often in dire need of re-sodding and landscape renovations.
Private equity firms including Colony Capital, Blackstone Group (BX), KKR (KKR), and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (OZM) are rushing to make similar bets. They plan to spend at least $7.2 billion to snatch up undervalued single-family homes and then rent them out. The aim is to capitalize on U.S. home prices that are 34 percent below their 2006 peak, as well as on a broader shift toward renting. At 65 percent in the first quarter, U.S. homeownership is at its lowest level since 1997. Scott Simon, head of mortgage bonds at Pimco, says about 6 million borrowers will lose their homes in the next five years, creating demand for as many as 4 million new rental homes. “Our view is there’s tons to buy and tons to buy attractively,” says Justin Chang, acting president of Colony Capital’s American Homes unit.
Colony has bought 1,100 homes in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas, with plans to acquire $1.5 billion in property by next April. Colony was among the winners of the largest bulk sale thus far: a $330 million portfolio of 2,500 foreclosed properties auctioned off by Fannie Mae (FNMA), the government-controlled mortgage company that owned 114,000 foreclosed properties as of March 31, according to people with knowledge of the deal who asked not to be identified because they signed confidentiality agreements.
Blackstone, the biggest buyer of U.S. commercial real estate since prices bottomed, has “bought over 2,000 homes at this point,” Jonathan Gray, senior managing director for real estate, said at a July 18 conference, adding that the company “probably spent over $300 million doing this.”
Not everyone’s quite convinced the equity firms will make money on the deals, but it is a glimmer of hope in the troubled real estate market.