During the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a big focus on unemployment. For Pleasant Grove-based landscape company Stratton and Bratt, it is quite the opposite.

The largest family-owned landscape company in the state of Utah is having a problem finding workers.

Normally during the summer, the company brings in legal immigrant workers from Mexico to help with its projects.

This is done under a program provided through the United States government. It is utilized as a way to supplement the current workforce locally, but the pandemic and current restrictions have taken that option away.

When asked about why the company brings in foreign workers each year, Stratton and Bratt general counsel and attorney Keven Stratton Jr. said that the company does it out of necessity rather than strategy.

“We have always been concerned with growing local jobs and keeping local jobs,” Stratton said. “The only reason we have used that program is because we have not been able to find willing and able workers here within the state of Utah.”

Even in the current climate for employment, given the pandemic, Stratton and Bratt are still having problems finding workers.

Stratton said the local focus on jobs does not signal a domestic shift during the pandemic, but instead it’s a continuance of the company’s goals to create as many local jobs as possible.

The company has seen the landscape industry grow, and with that it has seen its own growth. Along with that growth comes more demand and in return, more jobs.

“The reality of the landscape industry, this is nationwide, is that we just cannot find enough workers that want to participate and make a career in landscaping,” Stratton said.

It’s unknown whether people are not willing to work in landscaping, not able to or maybe looking in other places for employment.

Stratton added that there is a misconception surrounding the landscaping industry that workers mow lawns and pull weeds. While that may be needed sometimes, it’s not all of the work that is done.

The company has worked on some temple projects for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Haiti, Tijuana, Mexico, and some in Utah while also doing more commercial and even residential projects. Splash pads, parks and other open spaces have all been built by the company.

Stratton characterized the problem surrounding local workers as one of the company’s biggest challenges and opportunities.

“We have been nourished and nurtured by this valley, by this community and our goal is to give back to that community,” Stratton said. “Our starting wage for our entry-level position is more than double minimum wage. It’s not that we are trying to lowball anybody, we want to hire people, give them a good living wage and a place that they can work and grow. Our success is the community’s success, and to be not able to fill that need is beyond frustrating.”

As for possible next steps to generate interest in the landscaping industry, Stratton and Bratt has been working with local universities to build programs to fit the needs of recent graduates. Attempting to show the need for workers in landscaping while also showing the possibilities.

The goal is to open people’s eyes to the growth opportunities available right in their own backyard, possibly literally and figuratively.