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A Year Well Vested: FNGLA Proudly Marches Forward

Monday, June 12, 2017
Article by: Greenline

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I wish to start my last article as FNGLA President by thanking those of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings and rants each month. My goal here was to be entertaining while providing useful information pertaining to this great association and industry. I can only hope I lived up to my goals during the past twelve months. If you are here reading this current article, I assume mission accomplished.

I had the opportunity to do many different activities over the past year while presiding as FNGLA President.Yet, one of the most recent activities was without a doubt one of the most memorable. Last month, FNGLA’s four state officers - Ed Bravo, Will Womack, Billy Butterfield and I – (along with our CEO Ben Bolusky and lobbyist Jim Spratt) made the trek up to Washington D.C. to discuss the issues affecting our industry with Florida’s Members of Congress. We also had the pleasure of the company of Mary Ann Hooks (UF/IFAS Governmental Relations) who presented some issues in which both FNGLA and IFAS have a common stake.

During our visit, we met with the offices of both U.S. Senators from Florida, as well as many U.S. Representatives throughout the state. We went there armed with the “hot off the press” new Economic Impact Study results which UF/IFAS conducted last year at FNGLA’s request.  When your industry can claim Florida sales over $21 Billion and more than 232,000 jobs, people tend to want to lend an ear. Initially, before we even arrived, I was a little skeptical over how effective our group would be. Yet, meeting after meeting, it was clearly evident we have the support and backing of many of these Members of Congress and all were very interested in what we had to say.  

The biggest issue we brought to the table was immigration and labor. Availability and a stable future workforce is obviously a huge issue affecting our industry as well as several others. While a permanent solution is still to be figured out, it looks as if we are on several potential paths for securing a workforce for our industry. One of the more intriguing is the idea of a new blue card which would be issued to those who can prove they meet the criteria set forth and commit to work towards a legal status. It seems to me this could have the merits to be at least part of a solid solution. However, this approach does not address the need for new foreign guest workers.

Probably the most interesting part of our trip was sitting in the U.S. House Agriculture Committee hearing room listening to the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s testimony regarding budget, trade and the state of rural economies. This was an informative and educational experience I will not soon forget. It appeared both sides of the political aisle are looking forward to working with Secretary Perdue. 

In my previous Greenline articles, I’ve mentioned the FNGLA Annual Convention which will be held on June 23 & 24 in sunny Fort Lauderdale at the B Ocean Resort Hotel. Hopefully, your plans are in full motion to attend this fun and informative convention.  During the annual membership meeting on Saturday morning, June 24 from 9-11:30, you will enjoy the opportunity to hear and see what FNGLA has been up to this past year and the future vision for the Association.  

During the membership meeting, FNGLA volunteer leaders are honored for their service and dedication and, last, but certainly not least, our newly elected officers will be sworn into office.  Currently FNGLA’s Secretary/Treasurer Will Womack (Tampa Bay Landscaping, Tampa) will be nominated to be President-Elect. Our current PresidentElect, Ed Bravo (Big Tree Plantation, Newberry), will receive the Big Shoes as the next FNGLA President.

I have known Ed and Will for some time, yet I really got the chance to get to know them even more during our recent D.C. trip.  I must say our Association truly is in great hands. Both of these men have the fortitude and strength to keep FNGLA as strong as it ever has been. I’m looking forward to another year working with each of them as I move into the position of FNGLA Immediate Past President.  

The last item I wish to address in this, my final article, are the volunteers and sponsors who support and make this Association what it is today.  Besides the wonderful Orlando staff we have managing FNGLA, our Association is truly driven by volunteers. These are people who have full-time jobs working in the industry and running their businesses.  People who get involved in everything from Chapter meetings all way to holding positions on FNGLA’s state board. I wish to thank all of these gracious folks for everything they do for FNGLA and our industry.  There are also many members who sponsor a lot of FNGLA activities whether on the chapter or state level. I recently reached out to many of my friends and colleagues asking if they would be a sponsor of FNGLA’s Annual Convention. Many of these folks stepped up to plate which they so often do - time and time again. I wish to thank all of these member volunteers and sponsors from the bottom of my heart.  

It has truly been an honor and a privilege serving as the President of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association during the 2016-2017 year.

Robert Shoelson, FCLC 
Getting Green Plant Service, Inc. (Davie) & Betrock Information Systems, Inc. (Hollywood) 

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