HUNTINGTON — Saunders Lawn Care in Huntington started in 1991 with one truck and one lawn mower, according to owner Stephen Saunders.
“We have grown into a leading lawn care provider in Huntington,” he said. “The West Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association has had a role in that success.”
Saunders is WVNLA’s past president.
West Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association, established in 1939, is a professional trade association dedicated to supporting nursery and landscape businesses and vendors throughout the Mountain State.
“My membership in and activities associated with WVNLA have provided a great opportunity to get to know others in the profession throughout the state, share ideas and work together on community projects,” he said. “I’ve interacted with some of the biggest names in our industry at our events and also learned much from small business owners.”
State and federal economic statistics show the nursery and landscape industry in West Virginia has grown and will continue to expand through 2026, according to Julie Robinson, executive director of WVNLA.
“WVNLA leaders and member companies have taken a proactive approach to growing the industry, to help complement the emphasis on outdoor recreation and related economic development throughout West Virginia,” Robinson said. “WVNLA’s workforce development and scholarship support in all parts of the Mountain State is helping boost the green economy and enhance the pipeline of talented skilled workers and entrepreneurs in nursery and landscaping.”
According to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. data, jobs in nursery and landscape grew by 6% from 2016 to 2021.
EMSI data is a hybrid dataset derived from official government sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics. EMSI projects a 4% growth for the industry between now and 2026.
Robinson said WVNLA has been working on multiple levels to attract and develop green industry employees, such as crafting a “Landscape Technician Boot Camp,” which is a 40-hour course to be offered at the state’s nine community and technical colleges.
It is also developing a lawn and landscape training course through the National Guard to present to “Jobs & Hope” participants and to WVNLA member companies as a training resource, making presentations to high school agriculture and career and tech students, and creating videos and presentation materials.
Robinson says workforce development initiatives will take center stage at the association’s upcoming Winter Symposium, “Growing A Great Landscape.” The event takes place from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
At the Winter Symposium, a panel of those involved in workforce development initiatives will include Michael Biafore, chairman of WVNLA’s Workforce Development Committee and president of Biafore’s Landscape Development; Cindy Bailey, director of economic development for the West Virginia National Guard; Scott Byars, WVNG trainer, former WVU Extension agent, and landscape business owner; Nancy Ligus, director of workforce, continuing education and economic development at Pierpont Community & Technical College; and Lisa McDavid of Lisa’s Gardenscapes, she said.
Robinson and Saunders are urging those interested in the nursery and landscape industry to attend.
Cost to attend is $50 for WVNLA members and $100 for non-members and includes lunch. Vendors may rent a table for $25. Register online at https://wvnla.org/. Contact Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-553-1234 with any questions.
Robinson added that the WVNLA members support West Virginia college students studying horticulture and landscape architecture with scholarship opportunities. They also share expertise and support in their communities; meet for volunteer projects; and support worthy, industry-related endeavors through association donations. Regionally, WVNLA co-owns the annual Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show along with the Maryland and Virginia associations.
For membership, events or mission priorities, visit https://wvnla.org/.