With roots in the School of Agriculture, Bailey Nurseries continue to thrive

In 1905, John Vincent Bailey Jr., a member of the School of Agriculture’s class of 1896, eagerly launched a vegetable production business with $10 seed capital. From that humble beginning, Bailey Nurseries has grown to become one of the nation’s largest nurseries. Today, Bailey’s statistical accomplishments are impressive — more than 800 varieties of woody plants, as well as hundreds of annuals and perennials; annual production of two million shade trees, five million shrubs, one million hardy shrub roses, 400,000 fruit trees, and 200,000 flats of bedding plants. Even more impressive than the numbers, however, is the company’s dedication to the land and the people who have fueled their success. Provided with ample opportunity and generous means with which to pursue its personal and professional goals, the enterprise’s full-time staff has experienced surprisingly little turnover through the years. As a result, Bailey Nurseries’ customers enjoy unrivaled levels of consistency and competency. The company's recent feature in the Star Tribune showcases the company's family story and its continued innovation. 

As early as the 1950s, Bailey Nurseries was taking the lead in soil and water conservation. In areas of technology and innovation, Bailey has long pioneered the development and fabrication of custom tree and shrub harvesting equipment.

After navigating industry turbulence during the recession, Bailey’s remains one of the 20 biggest tree and shrub nurseries in the country. The Newport-based company employs 500 people full time, plus as many as 700 more in peak periods. Over the past several weeks, workers have nearly emptied the 22 acres of Bailey Nurseries’ greenhouses in Cottage Grove.Truckload after truckload of Endless Summer hydrangeas, Easy Elegance roses and hundreds of varieties of shrubs and trees have gone out to retailers, landscapers, and suppliers across the country.

Since becoming president of the family-owned business in 2001, McEnaney has implemented many innovations and adjusted as consumers’ gardening tastes have shifted. Simple, repetitive tasks that used to require human labor are becoming automated. Nearly one-third of greenhouses and nurseries closed after the recession, including St. Paul-based Linder’s, Ambergate Gardens and Shady Acres in Chaska, and Uncommon Gardens in Minneapolis. For Bailey’s, now in its 112th year, longevity is firmly rooted but carefully tended to.

Only 3 percent of family businesses survive past the third generation, according to the Family Business Institute. Now in its fifth generation at the nursery, the Bailey family has 11 members working in the company. Starting with the most recent generation, family members are required to work outside the company business for several years after college. Ryan McEnaney, 30, worked in public relations for the entertainment business in Los Angeles for five years. “It was good for me to work in a different industry,” said the company spokesman. “If you come back to Bailey’s, you need to fit into an open position and as a new employee, you can’t report to a family member.”

Terri McEnaney, a great-granddaughter of the founder, spent eight years in the controller’s office at 3M before joining the family business in 1991 and is one of few women at the top of a large nursery business. “There was a time when I didn’t see a place for me in the business,” said McEnaney. “I looked around and all I saw was men.”

It’s conceivable that Bailey’s may have to look outside the family for future leadership. “We haven’t gone outside the family to take the company to the next level, but we have not closed the door, either,” Terri McEnaney said.

Read the full article at: http://www.startribune.com/bailey-nurseries-finds-its-roots-in-a-growing-family/422132513/