By Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel
The Office of Advocacy recently visited Ameriscape Landscape Services in Florida’s Tampa Bay area following Advocacy’s Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable. Advocacy was hosted by Joe Chiellini, the President and CEO of the company and one of its original founders in 1993. Joe and a close friend created a small residential lawn care business called Lawncombers USA. They were both firefighters for the Hillsborough County fire department and wanted to earn extra money when they were off duty from the fire department. Through hard work and dedication, Lawncombers quickly earned a reputation for high quality and dependable services and the business grew. The company soon expanded into commercial landscaping services and merged with a local tree farm operation – and Ameriscape Services USA was born in 1999.
According to Mr. Chiellini, the company’s growing base of new business at the time required help in the form of a skilled and a capable workforce focused on the company’s emergence into the high-end design/build arenas, commercial maintenance, arbor care and horticultural services. Success and growth added additional business complexities including the need to become more familiar with government regulations, environmental concerns, financial matters, and internal operations.
Asked about regulatory issues that are most impacting the business, Mr. Chiellini didn’t hesitate: it is the growing shortage of skilled labor needed to service the company’s expanded business operations in the growing economy. Specifically, Mr. Chiellini noted the difficulty of either finding qualified local workers or bringing in seasonal H-2B visa workers in the spring months when they are needed most. The company had previously hired about fifty temporary H-2Bs visa holders per year, but the availability and timeliness of their arrivals in recent years has created a real labor crunch for the business.
The nursery, landscaping and related industries in Florida have a big economic impact on the state. According to the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, the industry produces $21 billion in output per year and employs 232,650 people.
Today, Ameriscape Services is a company dedicated to its clients and employees, and Mr. Chiellini (who is also still a Hillsborough County firefighter) is trying to lure local workers to join the company and promises a real career opportunity for them. He noted that in the highly competitive world of commercial landscaping, maintaining a knowledgeable and skilled work force is critical to the company’s success and ability to service its clients.
Advocacy was in Florida for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables June 5-7th.
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Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at email@example.com.