The green industry covers a wide umbrella of companies. Every landscape company--from giants like Brightview all the way down to owner/operator companies with a few dozen clients--is part of the green industry, and all are affected by the industry’s reputation. That reputation can be damaged by thoughtless or dishonest companies, and sometimes company owners have to struggle to overcome a bad rep that they never deserved.

There are many reasons for this discrepancy, and a recent speech by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta highlighted one of them. Acosta called for reforms, at the federal level, of occupational licensing laws, arguing that the current rules unnecessarily restrict people from entering numerous professions, and hurt the economy.

Many states require landscape company owners to be licensed and bonded in order to do landscape installation—or even maintenance work, legally. A would-be scammer doing landscape work would not pay to get bonded, only to lose all that money after the first big project they abandon. Because it is cost-prohibitive for scammers to get licensed, they try to fly under the radar, and operate without a license.

This simple economics provide landscape contractors a cachet of respectability. It also unfairly sullies the reputation of honest landscape company owners operating in states without stringent licensing laws. They get lumped in with the scammers, and consumers can end up tarring our entire industry with the same brush.

Even in his speech against licensing, Acosta acknowledged that it has value. “Many licenses have valid reasons, particularly when they are focused on health and safety,” he said. “Certifying skills and specialized knowledge helps consumers.”

Given all this, will the Department of Labor decide that licensing for landscape contractors needs to be overhauled or eliminated? Only time will tell, but the grounds they have cited thus far suggest that they may not.