Eager To Build

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There is no voice in the sky, like the one delivering messages to Kevin Costner’s character in the movie “Field Of Dreams,” whispering about building greenhouses and the result being more customers. But what if the voice in the sky is, instead, your instinct telling you this is the year to build more greenhouses? Would you follow your instinct?

Few growers have followed their instincts to build, at least looking at the last couple years, and they cite poor weather or the economy as the factors that put their operation’s expansion plans off another year. There’s nothing wrong with citing those factors, of course: Good weather is a must and a strong economy is important, too, if you’re going to add greenhouses every year or two. But sticking to a big-picture growth plan–if growth is, in fact, part of the vision you have for your operation–should be a factor in your expansion plans, as well.

“Most companies look at 10-year growth as opposed to year-to-year,” says Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales at Nexus Greenhouse Systems.

Yet, the economy frightened enough growers over the last two years that they put their operation’s growth plans in a drawer. Poor weather in certain regions last spring put a damper in the greenhouse structures market, as well, because plants that remain on retail benches ultimately don’t lead to greenhouse expansions.

Early Optimism

But this spring is different–at least March and the first half of April were–as retailers report early spring sales are up. Warschauer connects weekly with five retailers for a market report, and four of them indicate their March and early April sales are up 30 to 35 percent. Gordon Van Egmond, a U.S. sales representative for Westbrook Greenhouse Systems, also heard positive early-spring reports from his growers, and Reid Squires, director of sales for Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing, says the flowering potted plant growers with whom he’s corresponded had a good first half of spring.

Early-spring sales reports are a reason for optimism, but will the optimism translate to more building?

“We see a fare amount of optimism,” says Bill Vietas, Rough Brothers vice president of sales. “But it’s optimism with tentativeness because growers don’t know where the market is going entirely. They see last year went well and this year is too, but you just never know.”

For Warschauer, the first half of this year has been an unusual one because he’s seen non-stop activity, starting with expansions like Pleasant View Gardens’ and continuing into spring with extremely early commitments from growers.

“I don’t know if I’ve been this busy,” Warschauer says. “Normally this time of year we’re much slower. This is the time of year you’re doing the quotations and working on the design specifications and pricing. You go through that rendition on the proposal, but we’re at the point with several growers who’ve already committed. Normally, growers won’t do that until May is over because they’re hoping for a big month.”

Growers aren’t exactly building greenhouses at the rate they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago–the glory years for the structures companies are probably gone–but that doesn’t mean growers are done building. After all, the more greenhouses are built, the better the retail marketplace must be. And all signs are pointing toward a good spring. 

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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