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Fresh Tulips USA is leasing the 45-acre greenhouse complex next to the Birchwood power plant in King George County
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BY CATHY JETT
Tulips from a regional grower will begin showing up in more stores than ever just after Christmas.
Fresh Tulips USA LLC, currently located in Stevensburg, has signed a 10-year lease on the vacant 45-acre greenhouse complex off State Route 3 near the Birchwood power plant and King George County landfill.
The company will begin operations there in November, and will continue to operate at Stevensburg until the lease for that 8-acre location expires in 2016. The company will then be consolidated in King George.
"I think eventually we would like to buy [the King George complex]," said operations manager Coen Haakman.
Fresh Tulips USA was interested in the property because it needs to expand, he said. The new location will allow it to build a larger cooler for more types of bulbs, including lilies and daffodils; grow plants hydroponically year round; and, in about five years, produce about twice as many tulips as it does now in Stevensburg.
Currently, Fresh Tulips USA ships about 6 million bouquets a year to distributors in a rectangular area stretching from Boston to Miami and Dallas to Chicago. Clients include such grocery stores as Giant Food, Whole Foods and Kroger. Workers also box and ship special-order bouquets for online retailer ProFlowers.com.
Haakman said that the new facility will need a staff of 60 to plant, harvest and ship the flowers, as well as do quality control. Hiring will begin in November.
Fresh Tulips is a division of B&B Quality Bulbs in the Netherlands, which specializes in breeding and selling tulips worldwide. It got into the cut-tulip business several years ago after realizing it had overlooked that part of the market, he said.
The company researched the demand for cut tulips and found that it was growing 6 to 10 percent a year in the United States. Demand also was high in several other countries, including Chile, South Africa and Montenegro, which was formerly part of Yugoslavia.
B&B picked Stevensburg for its American operation because it's located at the midpoint of its distribution area on the East Coast. The King George site, which is off State Route 3 and close to Interstate 95, is "basically in the same area," Haakman said.