March 17, 2009

Economic Stimulus: Help For Small Businesses

Charlie Hall, who holds the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, recently shared his insight into what the economic stimulus means for the green industry. He pointed out the following major provisions of the stimulus package of interest to small businesses, according to the Small Business Legislative Council: –It allows small businesses to take upfront deductions of up to $250,000 of the cost of equipment–such as computers, vehicles, furniture and manufacturing machinery–instead of depreciating the investment over a number of years. The deduction was slated to end in 2008, but was extended through 2009. –It extends a bonus depreciation allowing small businesses to deduct half the cost of new qualifying capital equipment expenditures purchased in 2009, if the equipment is put into use by Jan. 1, 2010. –It temporarily broadens the “carry-back” period for 2008 net operating losses from two years to five. This allows small businesses […]

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March 10, 2009

Q&A With Ace Hardware CEO

A hardware industry publication recently sat down with Ace Hardware CEO Ray Griffith and asked him about the company turning 85, and how it can stay relevant to today’s consumers. Some of the interview, conducted by Home Channel News, also touched on the lawn and garden side of the business, which he anticipates growing in the future. Here’s a segment of the conversation: HCN: What do the hardware stores have going for them? Griffith: “The consumer is cocooning more. They are thinking about their homes still as their biggest financial investment. And cocooning involves making the home a more enjoyable place to be. Some of that goes with outdoor living, more than just lawn and garden. It involves patio furniture and grills, certainly gardening. “I think there is another factor, at least across the North. After all the bad economic news and as spring hits, people are ready to get […]

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March 2, 2009

A Webinar Series With Charlie Hall

Charlie Hall, the current chairholder of the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture at Texas A&M University, will kick off a webinar series next week designed to help growers make more informed managerial decisions in the midst of the current economic downturn. Hall’s first webinar, “Action Points to Survive the Downturn,” will take place next Tuesday, March 9 at 11 a.m. CDT. Two other webinars–one on differentiating by being sustainable and the other on green marketing–are respectively scheduled for April and May. Click here for more information.

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February 19, 2009

Interstate Transport Growing Larger

Freight management and logistics company Interstate Transport is adding space and staff to its headquarters in Saint Petersburg, Fla. It also recently opened a software division for InMotion Global TMS, its Web-based transportation management system that’s now available in one model for $50 per month. InMotion Global TMS requires no software or hardware installation and can be implemented in minutes. The system includes hundreds of features that centralize and streamline the entire transportation process from load inception through final delivery, and it allows shippers to seamlessly manage their entire transportation operation. Whether the logistics operation is conducted out of one location or across multiple locations, users log in through their Web browsers and have instant access, in real-time, to every aspect of their operation, providing them with total situational awareness. “We have been very fortunate to enjoy tremendous success with both our products and services,” says CEO Tim Higham. “We […]

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February 19, 2009

Protect Crops By Updating Records, Hortica Says

Growers can learn from crop insurance incidents of 2008 by retaining required records to substantiate inventories, according to Hortica Insurance. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) says the best tool growers can use is the Crop Inventory Valuation Estimate Report, a software program commonly known as DataScape, to develop their Plant Inventory Value Reports. Hortica assisted many growers in 2008 by entering their inventory reports in the DataScape program, and will provide the same service in 2009. To take advantage of this assistance, customers should have their inventory reports to Hortica by April 1, 2009.

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February 18, 2009

Al’s Alternative To Dumping Plants

Whether you’re a grower, a retailer or some mesh of the two, there’s no avoiding the fact you need to do something with your excess plants once they’ve passed the sellable point. Dumping them probably seems like the most logical next step, but as Al’s Garden Center & Greenhouses demonstrates, there are alternatives to simply making your plants compost in any season. Every fall, Al’s Garden Center and Greenhouses grows about 50,000 poinsettias for the Christmas season. Last November, Al’s happened to grow a bumper crop of poinsettias because of fantastic fall weather in Oregon. Al’s could have attempted to sell the extra 1,000 or so poinsettias that grew, but having budgeted about 50,000 for retail in past years, there was no guarantee the extras would sell at its local garden centers. So, rather than push the extras at retail, Al’s decided to build some good will in the community […]

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February 17, 2009

Walmart Cutting Jobs At Headquarters

Apparently, all is not well at retail giant Walmart, which plans to eliminate 700 to 800 positions at company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The cuts won’t impact store operations like Walmart’s garden centers, the company says. The cuts are, however, the first sign of trouble for Walmart in a struggling economy. “As the new fiscal year begins, we find ourselves living in unprecedented times,” Walmart CEO Mike Duke wrote in a memo to employees. The particular positions being eliminated are in merchandising, real estate, marketing and support divisions in Walmart’s U.S. division and in Sam’s Club merchandising unit, according to the memo.

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February 10, 2009

Consumer Attitudes On Organic

The Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF) surveys people to get a feel for what the average person thinks about various subjects related to gardening. My son Will is the chairperson of the survey committee, and he discussed GWA Foundation’s 2008 fall survey of 1,000 people on consumer attitudes on organic. TechnoMetrica, a market intelligence group from Oradell, N.J., conducted the survey. Will and I usually get together once a week to discuss things related to horticultural business. He provided me a copy of the survey report, which is a well-done, professional account of the findings. He gave me a condensed version and then reviewed each area with me. I have been involved with the Garden Writers Association for more than 40 years, and I served as the director for the Great Lakes area for more than four years in the 1980s. I’m proud to see how the association has developed […]

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January 19, 2009

A Step Forward For The Supply Chain

The Integrated Horticultural Alliance, a group comprised of BFG Supply, BWI Companies and Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, has launched a two-year training program that will enhance the expertise of its representatives in selecting product, chemical application and best business practices. The program should help standardize practices for the supply chain. “The training we conducted at MANTS was a fabulous start to our program,” says Joe Farinacci, IHA managing director. “We will continue training prior to OFA Short Course and supplement it with webinars and testing.” When participants complete the program, they will be IHA certified as experts in the horticultural and ornamental industry. For more information on the education initiative, contact Farinacci at 440-498-8319 or [email protected]

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January 19, 2009

A Look At Live Goods Buying Habits

Some growers have been buying hard and live goods more conservatively this year as a result of 2008. What are the reasons? How will their buying habits affect the spring season? We recently caught up with Dave Watt of Express Seed Company, general manager for the live goods broker based in Oberlin, Ohio, who offered a few thoughts on recent buying trends he’s seen. Why are buying habits more conservative for live goods this year compared to past years? “Growers are viewing this year as a correction with their planning. I think we’ve had unusual circumstances in the way we’ve broadcasted concerns over the economy. The action being taken is just a maturing of many discussions that have been going on over the years–discussions about pay by scan, at-once ordering, cost-effective planning and maybe most importantly, the shrink factor. The reaction is all part of that, and it’s come a […]

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January 16, 2009

When It Counts Most, Be Bullish

What’s the mood out there? It’s a question I’ve tried to incorporate into every dialogue I’ve had about our industry over the last few months. Recently, I posed a version of the question to a handful of hard and live goods brokers with hopes of drawing conclusions about the upcoming spring season and the state of our industry at the distribution level. Here’s what I concluded: – Growers are taking conservative approaches to buying because of carryover and credit concerns. – In some cases, growers are waiting until the very last minute to make purchases, which could put a rift in their production schedules. – Low-cost production and effective selling are, however, still the driving factors of profitability, and some growers are making buying decisions based on their view of 2009 as a course-correction year. At its core, our industry is no different than most others. Business management decisions are […]

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January 16, 2009

Avoid Root Rot

One of my former students visited me over the Christmas holidays. He is now what I consider to be one of the best grower-managers of one of the premier greenhouse ranges in the United States. As old professors often do, I asked him questions just to stimulate his thoughts. I asked, “How do you avoid root rot?” We then had a half-hour discussion about all the symptoms, the chemical controls and the environmental conditions that could be used to control root rot problems in plants. It was a very good and valuable exchange of information during which I probably learned more about the recent advancements in this area of plant pathology than he did. I complimented him on his thorough knowledge of the subject. Then, just to keep him on his toes, I said, “You know a great deal about root rot in plants, but I was trying to determine […]

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