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February 18, 2019   
Drought Costing Green Industry Jobs  January 17, 2008

After a few spits of rain, the 30 or so people who recently gathered on the Georgia Capitol steps bowed their heads and prayed.

They asked for continued rain, for wise government decisions, and for help for those laid off because of the drought. “Please be with those who have lost their jobs,” implored Andy Rogers, chairman of the Georgia Green Industry Association, who led the group.

That would include Rogers’ brother, Tim, who stood a few steps away. He was let go last week from his job at Gary’s Garden Center in Greensboro, Ga..
“I saw we had to make budget cuts,” said Tim Rogers, soon to become a new father. “I didn’t think it would be me.”

Because of watering prohibitions, Georgia’s green industry has lost 13,800 full-time and part-time jobs as of early October, according to an e-mail survey by the Urban Agriculture Council, an alliance of growers, landscapers, retailers and others in horticulture.

That represents more than 17 percent of the green industry work force in Georgia.

The green industry encompasses 7,000 businesses and 80,000 employees, and generates $8.1 billion in yearly revenue, the Urban Agriculture Council says. Or it did before the drought. Only poultry is bigger in agriculture.
Since May, when less severe watering restrictions were imposed, green industry revenues are down $1.192 billion, UAC says. It projects a 43 percent drop by year-end.

Charmar Flower and Gift Shop in Athens, Ga., which has operated in some form since 1970, is shutting down at the end of the year, putting 12 people out of work.

“When we got to a total outdoor ban, it in effect said ‘don’t do business with us,’” remarked Chris Butts, Charmar’s general manager and co-owner.
The green industry says it’s unfairly singled out for restrictions because it’s so visible, not because it’s a water glutton. About 20 percent of residential water is used outside, the industry says.

“The act of not watering landscape is a drop of water in Lake Lanier,” said Randy Sharp of Premier Growers in Buford. “Nobody sees the millions of gallons that flow though a Gatorade plant in Atlanta.”

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