Heimos’ expansion plan involves knowing the right time to build, and not taking on any debt to do so.
Photo: Chris Manning

Bernie Heimos, the owner of N.G. Heimos Greenhouses in Columbia, Ill., takes a measured approach to expand the number of greenhouses at his operation.

Fourteen years after he took over the business from his father Norwin, Bernie has built about an acre per year to supplement Heimos’ space by adding smaller additions to their current houses, and continues to do so. Additionally, every move is only made when enough plants are sold to finance development.

“That’s why we only build an acre a year,” Bernie says.

Much of Heimos’ construction work is done in house, although another greenhouse company advises him on different house options. If he plans on a summer expansion, the process begins in January. From there, he may order parts for a new house in March before making a final decision on expansion based on how Heimos’ spring sales go. Securing the necessary labor and electricity for a larger growing space also factor into Bernie’s decision-making process.

N.G. Heimos owner Bernie Heimos
Photo: Chris Manning

For example, Bernie says adding another boiler for another house would mean adding more electricity. On the flip side, he also keeps labor costs down by hiring his shipping crews to build during the parts of the year where they might not have as much to do.

Perhaps most importantly, Bernie keeps three basic rules in mind when considering building new structures. Specifically, he says the Heimos’ footprint and relationship with customers comes first, followed by not hiring additional labor and, lastly, maintaining energy efficiency even as energy needs increase.

The current plan envisions their present space being finished in seven years’ time, with more expansion possible after they purchase several acres of property located behind the greenhouses they currently own. In a way, Bernie is building a puzzle he designed himself. He knows where and how his business will develop — it’s just a matter of putting down the pieces at the right time.

“We don’t take on debt to build [structures] and a lot of greenhouses do,” he says. “Without knowing what the future is in our industry, we always have a vision in mind for what we want the business to be.”