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ASLA survey: Business is improving

Association News

Hiring is at its highest since third quarter 2008; inquiries for new work jump.

| May 10, 2010

Landscape architecture firm leaders reported higher levels of billable hours, hiring and especially inquiries for new work in the latest American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey. The results suggests that the worst of the recession may finally be over for landscape architecture firms, ASLA says.

According to the survey, 56.4 percent of firm leaders reported stable or above levels of billable hours in the first quarter of 2010, up from 45.5 percent last quarter and 25.2 percent from the same time last year. Inquiries for new work grew substantially as 72.2 percent responded with steady or higher levels, up from 53.7 percent last quarter and 25.3 this time last year. In addition, 21.6 percent of firm leaders reported plans to hire in the upcoming quarter – the highest number since the third quarter of 2008.

“The large number of inquiries marks an important sign of recovery, but by no means is this a suddenly booming economy for landscape architects,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville. “However, we hope this signifies an industry finally growing instead of contracting.”

The survey also asked about work related to federal stimulus funds. Among landscape architecture firm leaders, 23.2 percent reported work directly from stimulus funds, about the same (22.3 percent) as last quarter. Some highlights from the survey:

Compared to the fourth quarter 2009, your first quarter 2010 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 12.2%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 22.0%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 22.2%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 16.1%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 27.5%

Compared to the fourth quarter 2009, your first quarter 2010 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 14.2%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 34.2%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 23.8%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.3%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 16.5%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2009, your first quarter 2010 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 12.8%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 17.0%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 19.7%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 19.9%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 30.6%

Year to year, compared to the first quarter in 2009, your first quarter 2010 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 13.3%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 23.9%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 24.3%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 14.8%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 23.7%

Do you plan on hiring nay employees in the second quarter of 2010? (multiple answers)
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 4.9%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry level landscape architect – 6.8%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 6.1%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 3.6%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 5.1%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 3.0%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 78.4%

Has your area received federal economic stimulus funds?
My markets have not received any funds – 28.4%
My markets have received funds, but my practice has not received any work – 48.4%
My markets have received funds and my practice has received project work – 23.2%
What statement best describes your contractual relationship with clients?
My landscape architecture firm works directly with clients – 64.1%
I work directly with clients as part of a multi-disciplinary design/construction firm – 22.7%
I work as a sub-contractor for a design/construction firm – 2.9%
Other – 10.3%

Is marketing a formal, dedicated function within your firm?
Yes – 59%
No – 41%

On a scale with 1 being not effective at all and 5 being critical to business, rate the following in importance for generating new business:
Personal relationships – 4.64
Recommendations from others – 4.36
Networking – 3.53
Visibility in the community – 3.25
Active marketing outreach (ads, mailings, website, sponsorships, etc.) – 2.38
RFPs/RFQs – 2.61

The ASLA Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries and hiring plans. The Q1 2010 national survey was fielded April 12 through 24, with 486 firm representatives responding.
 

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