What lies ahead

As our economy has slowed, economists have been diligently sifting through the numbers in an attempt to divine our current and future status. Are we in a recession? When will a recovery occur? Is the worst over? One reason it's been so hard to pin down is that we've been teetering. We're not quite in a downward spiral, nor are we clearly improving; the signals have been mixed.

However, despite some specific pieces of bad economic news, economists were becoming slightly more optimistic. Many felt that the economy had bottomed out and was poised to rebound. But if you've ever read economic analyses, you are well aware of economists' penchant for hedging. Almost always, a report will end with some statement about future uncertainties. The optimists, though suggesting that better times might be ahead, warned of unforeseen shocks to the economy.

Then came the shock of September 11.

Of course, the human toll has been the most devastating result of the attack. But the probable economic damage has not been lost on economists. Will this send the economy over the edge? Many think so.

For obvious reasons, certain sectors of the economy already are suffering as a result of the terrorist attacks; insurance companies, airlines and the stock market, to name a few. That doesn't mean that all economic sectors will be so affected. In fact, the spending that takes place after a disaster often has a significant stimulatory effect. Now, as before, some industries will suffer, while others will remain healthy.

The Green Industry, I'm happy to say, seems to be one of the latter. Despite the generally gloomy economic news, many contractors report little or no fall-off of business this year. A poll taken earlier this year on our e-mail newsletter, Maintenance Matters (www.grounds-mag-news.com), showed 60 percent of you could discern no negative effects from the economy. Some contractors have had their best year ever; a remarkable fact considering the overall economic sluggishness.

One reason for this is the nearly bullet-proof construction industry, which continues to create properties at a fast pace, most of which need new landscaping. Another is that unemployment, while rising, is still low in historical terms. Most people are still employed and still have money to spend. As long as that's true, our industry is likely to remain healthy.

Will these conditions now change significantly for the worse? They might. What is clear is that the factors that made you successful in good economic times are the same ones that will help you survive — even thrive — in bad ones.

This month's “How to” article discusses a goal that most of you share: Increasing your business. Business consultant Dr. Jim Budzynski offers advice for doing so, beginning on page 33. As Budzynski makes clear, the strategies that retain customers often are the same ones that will bring you new ones.

For our Golf Edition readers, our cover story on intermediate layers addresses an issue that is somewhat contentious, at least in certain circles: U.S. Golf Association (USGA) green specifications. USGA specs are generally considered the standard for greens and other sand-based rootzones. But they're not perfect. A long-term study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee looks at an alternative that may help offset some of the problems encountered with sand-based rootzones.

For the rest of you, the cover story, “What's it worth?” tackles an issue that many of you may wonder about as a matter of curiosity: What is my business worth? Knowing the value of your company is important for several practical reasons. If you're buying or selling a business, obtaining financing or perhaps planning to pass it on to a relative, it is critical to understand the value of your operation. This is a complex matter, and one that often requires professional help. Learn more about this from attorney Ed Wandtke, the author of this month's opening feature, beginning on page 14.

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