Growing through ingenuity and innovation
PRT was founded in 1988 in response to a privatization initiative by the government of British Columbia. The company, then known as Pacific Regeneration Technologies Inc., was born from the efforts of Charlie Johnson, Ev Van Eerden and a diverse group of employees who together purchased six forest seedling nurseries from the government.
Twenty-five years later, PRT has planted more than three billion forest seedlings, operates a network of nurseries in Canada and the United States and employs about 500 people.
Starting from scratch
The company started from scratch. It had a business plan but no offices and no money. What PRT did have, according to Charlie Johnson, was more valuable: “The most important asset we bought was the employees’ expertise and dedication.”
And indeed the company’s first decade would bear this out. In only 10 years, PRT expanded from 6 to 10 nurseries, doubled production to 90 million seedlings and tripled sales to $22 million.
Building the PRT team
One of the biggest challenges initially was our decentralized structure. Most businesses start out in one location and then gradually expand, but PRT started with six completely different groups of people in six far-flung locations. Over time, however, the company turned this potential problem into a competitive advantage. We now have a network of nurseries in Canada and the United States that offer the benefits of a local operation along with the experience and resources of a large forest nursery company.
We soon recognized that, as part of our overall dedication to customer service, we needed to work even more closely with our customers. By helping foresters to select appropriate stock types for planting and to analyze post-planting growth, we have made significant contributions to plantation establishment in Canada. Through improved growing techniques, for example, our nurseries contributed to the development of a summer planting program on Vancouver Island and to the production of early sow crops for summer delivery in BC’s Interior region.
Adapting to change
In 1987, the forest companies were required to take responsibility for replanting newly logged Crown land. The companies, therefore, began to demand higher quality trees and container-grown seedlings, as these were easier to plant and performed better in the field.
This presented a new problem: most of our then six nurseries were primarily bareroot operations. To remain competitive, we initiated an aggressive program to increase our container seedling capacity. In the first four years of the program, we added 325,000 square feet of greenhouse space through expansion and conversion of exist