Greenhouse Management: How has conducting business in 2020 been?
Al Davidson: I had a customer say to me, “It was the best year ever that I never want to go through again.” I think that sums it up really well. In terms of coronavirus, some of our businesses and locations were impacted more than others but in general we came through it well. Our employees did an amazing job of working from home and never missing a beat — they never missed answering the phone or shipping an order. I am thankful to be in an industry that is booming. We are offering the consumer a product that gets them outside or improves their inside space. I think our industry is providing a product that is helping people get through this difficult time — both mentally and physically. So many new consumers are discovering plants and creating new demand for our growers. It’s thrilling.
GM: What does the recent acquisition of Gloeckner mean for Ball and the growers it works with?
AD: Fred C. Gloeckner & Company was a long standing, highly regarded supplier to our industry. We have similar business cultures and a commitment to the customer and the world of horticulture. A lot of their sales were in our core product areas. We can service this business adding new suppliers and systems to increase the customer experience. Gloeckner also had significant strength in cut flowers, bulbs and Latin American markets. Through the recent agreement, Ball will expand our offering in these three areas and improve the level of service to these segments.
Ball has also been focusing on how to improve the experience for the smaller grower customer. We will be adding many new accounts in this sector and will be be implementing new services to provide a higher level of customer satisfaction. Helping smaller growers be successful at their current or future level of growth is something Ball is very pleased to pursue and strengthen.
GM: How has the industry changed since you entered it and what has remained the same?
AD: The biggest change has been driven by consumer demand. When I entered the industry, it was all about packs and flats and planting flowers in the ground. The movement from gardening to decorating has completely changed everything — from breeding through finished production. Forty years ago, you could not find a mixed combination planter in a commercial greenhouse operation. Today, it takes up most of the production space. As far as what has not changed, I would say it is the family culture. Although there certainly has been consolidation at all levels, the industry is still family owned and operated. It is filled with people with a passion for our product and the desire to introduce new and exciting flowers for the consumer.