In 2004, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and the Professional Lawncare Association of America announced a merger to form a new association, the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). PLANET leadership then contacted related green industry associations to determine their interest in considering additional mergers. The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) responded to that invitation.
An ANLA-PLANET Joint Merger Evaluation Task Force of current and past leadership was appointed. Since its first meeting in January 2005, the task force continues to extensively study the benefits and disadvantages of a possible merger of ANLA and PLANET. Its findings are reported periodically to both associations’ boards of directors. “This industry’s national trade associations have a long history of effectively serving multiple business segments — growers, landscape design/build, maintenance firms and retailers. A combined ANLA and PLANET organization would serve individual business interests while addressing industry-wide issues from a position of greater strength with increased resources,” said Peter Orum, president of ANLA and president of Midwest Groundcovers, St. Charles, Ill.
A merger of ANLA and PLANET could build on the benefits and momentum gained by the formation of PLANET. It would combine two strong, full-service trade associations that currently address largely discrete, but contiguous, sectors of the “green industry.” The merged association would represent business interests involved in the full spectrum of the industry, including agricultural nursery production, wholesale distribution, retail garden centers, landscape design and installation, lawn care, maintenance and interior plantscape services.
“The potential benefits of an ANLA and PLANET merger are clear. The combined organization would create a membership of 6,000 firms and an operating budget of $9 million,” said Orum. “This would significantly increase our voice before the government and broaden the membership platform for events and services. But the key factor behind any decision ANLA makes is the long term interests of our loyal members and the good of this industry.”
Merger benefits include:
- Strong membership/financial base: Combined membership would approach 6,000. Less than 150 businesses currently hold membership in both organizations. The combined annual budget would exceed $9 million, with a more balanced and stable range of member dues and non-dues sources of revenue. Operational efficiencies would result in more member benefits for dues investment.
- More educational and business services: Many member businesses have activities that overlap or sell to the sectors represented by ANLA and PLANET. There would be an immediate increase in access to, participation in and support of the education and business services provided by both associations.
- More political influence: The merger adds strength and numbers to the continuum of agricultural-suburban-urban business interests that has been a key to ANLA’s government representation effectiveness. Further, PLANET’s representation expertise in local and regional environmental issues (retained from the legacy PLCAA organization) complements ANLA’s more limited representation in this area. A merged organization would become a dominant voice of the green industry and be positioned to monitor and affect government-related issues far more effectively, according to the associations.
- Public marketing outreach: PLANET’s public and consumer outreach can be strengthened by the network of ANLA’s retail and landscape businesses.
- Collaboration with other associations: The combined association would resemble the dual nature of most of the industry’s state and regional counterpart associations. This similarity will enhance collaboration with these groups and eliminate the potential for competition and duplication by two national organizations.
Additional exploration is under way. A merger would require the approval of both boards of directors, the ANLA Senate with membership support, and the PLANET membership. A timetable for further evaluation is in place. Final decisions regarding a merger are targeted for fall 2005.
“ANLA and PLANET’s merger discussions are still in their early stages, but so far, the task force and ANLA’s Board of Directors have not discovered any deal breakers. There is still a long way to go, but the initial findings look promising,” said Orum.