MALTA: Rooted in Professionalism

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Men laying new hardwood flooring

Photo courtesy of Nature Care

With bare trees, hardened soil and dead grass, now is probably not the time of year you gaze admiringly at your landscape. But it is the time to plan the improvements and changes youll want to make once spring is here. And when youre thinking about hiring a landscape professional, theres a word to consider adding to your vocabulary: MALTA.

The Metro Atlanta Landscape & Turf Association (MALTA) is a 20-year-old organization for professionals in landscape design, construction and maintenance. Not only does MALTA help homeowners locate reputable professionals, it also helps the industry as a whole maintain high standards through association, education and decoration.

Starting from a seed

Photo courtesy of HighGrove Partners

MALTA began in 1984 as the brainchild of Richard Bare, George Morrell and Max Graham. Both Bare and Graham had relocated to Georgia from other states that had professional landscaping organizations, and they decided it was time Atlanta did, too. Today, almost 500 members strong, MALTA is committed to promoting professionalism within the landscaping industry, increasing public awareness of the value of the industry, collecting and disseminating industry-related information, fostering a spirit of cooperation among members and advancing membership in the eyes of the public, according to its code of ethics.

I think we owe it to our industry to be involved, says Ray Wiedman, MALTA president and owner of GreenCare Inc. For its members, MALTA offers professional benefits such as networking and being able to stay on top of trends. And it makes our overall industry better, Wiedman says, because it increases the level of professionalism.

Staying ahead

Photo courtesy of Nature Scapes Inc.

MALTA promotes this industry professionalism among its members by setting standards of practice. The association holds regular meetings and educational programs encouraging members to stay current on landscape industry news. There are monthly dinner meetings that provide a chance to network and hear a speaker on an important industry topic. MALTA also provides quarterly educational workshops and offers pesticide classes required for many certification programs.

MALTA does a good job as far as providing courses for the [pesticide] training, says Zak Campbell, MALTA vice president and director of training and recruiting for HighGrove Partners, which has 225 employees. Since MALTA members can join as a company, Campbell is able to send new recruits to the MALTA classes.

Strength in numbers
As a team, MALTA members can work with lobbyists to make sure their message gets taken to the Legislature, according to Rick Upchurch, MALTA secretary and owner of Nature Scapes. In 1994, MALTA began its Workers Compensation program, allowing members to get better insurance rates together than they would have on their own.

It was a positive benefit for the members, says MALTA Executive Director Jean Ray of the Workers Compensation project. If you pool your resources and energies, good things can happen. As a result, membership has grown steadily throughout the years.

Recognizing great work

Photo courtesy of White Oak Landscape Co.

MALTA also has an awards program that recognizes outstanding landscape projects of various types and budgets. Members provide pictures and an explanation of a project, and outside sources choose the winners. Some members, such as Nature Scapes and HighGrove Partners, have won multiple awards.

One of HighGrove Partners awards was the 2002 Grand Award for Commercial Landscape Installation over $200,000. The corporate pocket park involved designing a community green, a naturalized water feature, an outdoor dining terrace and a sports court. The park also was equipped with built-in PC portals for outdoor computer access. MALTA keeps images and descriptions of some of the awards on its Web site, www.malta-inc.org. For a list of this year’s winners, please follow the link a the end of this article.

Helping you find the pros

Photo courtesy of P.O.P.S Landscaping

The MALTA Web site is one of the organizations main benefits for the general public. On the Web site, visitors will find tips for choosing a landscape professional so that before the first call is made, the homeowner will know what they are looking for. The Web site also includes a landscape source search page, which helps the homeowner locate a MALTA member organization or landscape supplier that specializes in the type of work the homeowner needs. For example, if you want colorful flowers, regular lawn care and a retaining wall built, you can search for a landscape professional who performs seasonal color, maintenance and installation.

Homeowners might feel more comfortable hiring a professional who is concerned enough about the industry to become a member of an organization like MALTA. Even so, it is always necessary to do your homework.
I think people should constantly be encouraged to be a little skeptical [when hiring a contractor], Ray says. Make sure that person can do what he says he can do and make him prove it. She recommends visiting sites, contacting previous clients and insisting on references. A reputable company will be pleased to provide the information you request.

What these organizations do is help bring a set of standards to the industry to protect the public, Campbell says. And that is MALTAs mission, to promote professionalism and benefit its members, the industry and the public.

We hope to improve the quality and professionalism of other contractors, so we can help the homeowners get what theyre paying for, Wiedman says.

2004 MALTA Environmental Awards

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