Friday, July 8, 2011

How I Love the Smell of Pickles in the Morning!

Holland, Michigan is the home of one of the oldest Heinz factories in the country. 115 years ago, Heinz made agreements with area farmers and the city of Holland that resulted in the building of a pickle factory that has been a fixture in the city ever since. Every summer, the unmistakable aroma of vinegar wafts through the air - not every day and not overpowering. That smell on my walk to campus in the morning reminded me of one of the "survival" behaviors of long-lived companies: the development of long-term relationships - with employees, customers, suppliers and communities. In 2008, when Heinz built a public waterfront walkway in front of their plant for the enjoyment of community residents, they posted a bronze plaque telling the story of the company's relationship with the Holland community. In part, this plaque reads:

In December 1896, Heinz committed to building a pickle factory in Holland if local farmers would pledge 300 acres of cucumbers for Heinz and if the city of Holland would donate a building site with water shipping access and a rail siding. Local citizens and farmers pledged more than 500 acres of cucumbers, and the City of Holland purchased two acres of land for $800 on the present day site. Today, the Heinz facility includes 17 buildings covering 29 acres. The passion and dedication of past and present Heinz employees along with the spirit of cooperation between the City of Holland and the H.J. Heinz Company has allowed Heinz to grow and prosper in Holland, MI.

The City of Holland donated two acres of land to Heinz 111 years ago to build a pickle factory. Today, Heinz is honored to be able to give back to the City of Holland and its citizens, access of more than 1,800 feet of Lake Macatawa shoreline via the Heinz Walkway.

Long-lived companies understand they are part of an ecosystem that depends on all parts working together and supporting each other.