March 29, 2013

Deadline for Rural Energy For America Program (REAP) Grants Is April 30, 2013

The Fiscal Year 2013 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) was announced March 28. This grant and guaranteed loan program helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and helps meet America’s critical energy needs.   Agricultural producers and rural small businesses are eligible to apply. Grants are available to reimburse 25 percent of the costs to purchase and install renewable energy or energy efficiency improvements. The guaranteed loans can cover 75 percent of the costs up to $25 million. Grants are also available to reimburse the 25 percent of the costs of a feasibility study for renewable energy projects up to $50,000.   Please note that there is approximately $20.8 million available nationwide, which is substantially less than in previous years. The program is expected to be highly competitive this year. In order to be considered for Fiscal Year 2013 funds, complete applications must be […]

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Richard Jones

February 7, 2013

Make Your Vendor A Partner

I spent a few hours this week reading through the responses to Greenhouse Grower’s 2013 State of the Industry report for a project I’m working on. As always, our survey had a series of in-depth questions specifically for growers. But this year, we also polled your vendors to get a better perspective on where their segments of the market stand. Some of the most interesting responses came when we questioned growers and suppliers about each other. We asked the suppliers, “What would you like growers to do that would improve profitability for both them and your company?” And we asked growers, “Besides lowering prices, what could vendors/suppliers/distributors be doing to improve your profitability?” The responses to both questions were (mostly) calm, well-reasoned and thoughtful, and taken together, reveal some opportunities for both sides to work together better. Suppliers, for example, offered growers sound business advice on product levels, mix and […]

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February 5, 2013

Grants Make Greenhouse Projects Possible

With energy costs ranking as one of the top concerns for greenhouse growers, it makes sense to take advantage of energy-efficient equipment and technology. But the cost of retrofitting or adding new equipment can be cost-prohibitive, and it’s often difficult to come up with the capital, even though the savings will be greater in the long-term. This is where government utility-based incentives can play a role. These programs are designed to provide and incentive and make it more feasible for businesses to make investments in energy-saving technology, thus helping to reduce energy consumption overall. Incentives come in several forms. In order to take advantage of incentives, growers need to become educated about how to apply and what types of projects are usually funded. Types Of Incentives “There are three types of incentives,” says Dan Kuipers, solar sales manager and grant specialist with TrueLeaf Technologies, a supplier of heating, irrigation and […]

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January 9, 2013

Commerce Corp. Sues Its Former President Malcomb Cork

As Baltimore-based Commerce Corp. undergoes either a dramatic downsizing or the final steps before closing its doors (read our article covering the conflicting reports here), it is also filing a lawsuit against its former president, Malcomb Cork. The lawsuit, filed in Maryland District Court in Baltimore, focuses on a $450,000 shareholder loan agreement made to Cork in July 2010, which Commerce alleges he did not repay, according to court papers. With accrued interest, Commerce is suing for $486,243.65, plus attorney and court fees. In response, Cork is countersuing Commerce for breach of employment agreement. In his suit, Cork says Commerce let him go without cause, which according to the employment agreement was the only reason he could be let go without 120-day notice. In the court filings, Cork gives his side of events from June and July 2012. Cork says he and his family were on a planned vacation to […]

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January 8, 2013

How The Fiscal Cliff Affects Small Businesses

The congressional bill concerning the fiscal cliff deal received final approval on Jan. 1, 2013, with a 257 to 157 bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) reports. A nine-month extension on the 2008 Farm Bill was also inclouded in the deal. The compromise between Democrats and Republicans includes $46 billion in business tax breaks, and the president is expected to sign the bill soon. According to MSN.com, part of the bill includes many temporary tax provisions that will continue through the end of the year, including a research and development tax credit. Through an additional provision, businesses may now also receive 50 percent bonus depreciation, which is essentially a tax credit for half the value of new investments. In the green industry, greenhouses and garden centers benefit from tax breaks for retail store and restaurant improvements and wind power and other alternative […]

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December 3, 2012

The Economy In 2013

Why does the economy feel so fragile even though it continues to be in the midst of a slow but steady expansion? It’s because we did not get the same bounce in growth that has typically followed previous recessions. After the downturn of the mid-1970s and early-1980s, the economy grew at close to 6 percent for two years — erasing all of the economic losses that had occurred. That surge never happened this time; we simply moved into a snail-paced, private sector expansion that has left us wanting more. Despite Trouble Abroad, U.S. Reaches Tipping Point Economic weakness in the euro zone is also not helping the U.S. economy. Problems in Europe have caused the value of the dollar to rise slightly, and weak European demand for imports is having a negative effect on the global economy. The fundamentals of our economy, however, have been trending more favorably in recent […]

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September 25, 2012

Sell More Plants: The 10 Percent Project

If you’ve been paying attention to The Grow Initiative, you know that the Greenhouse Grower team is looking for ways to rejuvenate the industry. The team at Today’s Garden Center, Greenhouse Grower’s sister magazine, has a similar mission. We’ve recruited as many big thinkers as we can to brainstorm ways we can help retailers succeed. The result is the 10% Project, a series of research projects and activities with the goal of increasing garden center plant revenues by 10 percent. Significantly increasing plant sales obviously benefits growers as well. About The 10% Project Why plants? Because plants are the core of garden retail. Depending on the store, plants make up between 60 and 80 percent of annual sales. What happens in that department can make or break a garden retailer. At an ANLA Management Clinic a few years ago, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa talked about how he […]

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September 18, 2012

The Home Depot’s China Stores Close

The Home Depot is closing its remaining seven big box stores in China, opting to focus on specialty stores and online offerings in that market. The Home Depot will maintain two recently opened specialty stores – a paint and flooring store and a Home Decorators Collection store – and is in the beginning stages of developing relationships with several of China’s leading eCommerce websites, a reflection of Chinese customers’ needs and shopping preferences. The store closings will affect approximately 850 associates, who will receive severance packages and job placement assistance. “Closing stores is always a difficult decision,” says Frank Blake, chairman & CEO, The Home Depot. “We are thankful for the dedicated service of our store associates in China, and we wish them all the best during this transition.” While it is closing its big box stores, The Home Depot is maintaining a new formats team to continue research and […]

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September 5, 2012

Use Production Inputs Wisely

During the Great Recession, I witnessed a cost-centricity like I had never seen before in my nearly four decades of being affiliated with the green industry. By cost-centricity, I am referring to the tendency on the part of growers to reduce costs. After all, there are only two ways to increase profit margins — either increase sales or reduce costs. It’s easier (or at least perceived to be easier) to do the latter. Having grown up in the family nursery business, I know all too well the mentality of shaving every single cent from the value chain that is possible, but this last economic downturn forced us to tighten our belts even further than we had thought possible. Belt-tightening in depressed economic conditions involves reexamining both the demand and supply side of profitability. On the demand side, growers ask what products and how many of each they should be growing […]

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August 2, 2012

The Great Truck Driver Shortage

You probably got into trucking by complete accident. You started growing or brokering plants and all of a sudden, you were in the trucking business too! How did that happen? Don’t worry, you are not alone; I ask myself the same question every day. As with all of the challenges we face each day, except for the drain on cash part, the actual physical trucks aren’t really the problem. No, the real problem is the drivers, or rather, the lack of good ones. There is good reason for this shortage — and it is getting worse. Demographics People are getting older. This seems obvious, but what I mean is that the general population is getting older, and a lot of the good old drivers of the past are retiring or close to retirement. Typically these empty seats would be filled by new drivers entering the market. The problem is, nobody […]

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July 19, 2012

OFA Appoints Charlie Hall, Ph.D. To Chief Economist

OFA’s Board of Directors appointed Charlie Hall, Ph.D. as its chief economist on July 15, 2012. He will work with and represent OFA to provide vision, leadership, analysis and technical competence required to achieve OFA and industry objectives. He is appointed for a two-year term. Charlie Hall is a professor at Texas A&M University and holds the Ellison Endowed Chair in International Floriculture. Dr. Hall’s expertise in the production and marketing of Green Industry crops is nationally recognized in academia and among the horticultural clientele he serves. His major research, teaching and extension areas of specialization include strategic management, market situation/outlook, cost accounting and financial analysis for Green Industry firms. He is an invited speaker at numerous regional, national and international meetings of various industry-related associations and organizations, including OFA events. “We are excited to have Dr. Hall formally recognized as a partner of OFA, and his insight will help […]

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