ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Ken Tagawa, chairman of Tagawa Inc. in Brighton, Colo., received the floral industry’s greatest honor on Aug. 16, induction into the Society of American Florists (SAF) Floriculture Hall of Fame. The announcement brought hundreds of industry members to their feet for a standing ovation during the Stars of the Industry Awards Dinner held in Marco Island, Fla., at the close of SAF’s 130th Annual Convention.
“Ken Tagawa set the standard for ethical behavior, relationship building and business smarts,” said SAF Awards Committee member David Gaul, AAF, of D.W.F. Wholesale Florists in Denver, Colo. “Combine that with hard work, dedication and leadership by action, and you have a blueprint for success in business, community and family.”
Over the last six decades, Ken Tagawa has led Tagawa Inc., and the floral industry, through periods of turbulence and change with intelligence, vision and, always, good humor. A born risk-taker, Tagawa is also a man of exceptional integrity, and someone who brings out the best in others, while challenging every industry member, no matter the segment, to look at the big picture.
As part of the Japanese American Internment, Tagawa, his parents and oldest siblings were relocated from California to Colorado during World War II. After being released from the camps, Tagawa served in the U.S. Navy and received a degree in engineering from the University of Colorado.
Alongside his four brothers and parents, Tagawa later bought land outside of Brighton, Colo., and began growing vegetables. The family had small greenhouses for their vegetable transplants and soon started growing flowers as well for the local market in Denver. From these humble beginnings, the Tagawa family built greenhouses and expanded the business to include cut flowers and bedding plants. They also helped construct greenhouses for other companies in the area and quickly became recognized leaders in the local horticulture community.
Today, the business has grown to include Tagawa Greenhouses; Tagawa Gardens, one of Colorado’s largest garden centers; and Ball Tagawa Growers, a 50/50 partnership with Ball Seed. The business also has part ownership in Denver Wholesale Florist, which has 14 wholesale branches across the U.S.
Tagawa has been on the leading edge of many innovations. Tagawa, for example, was one of the first companies to adapt automatic seeding technology, which allowed for the development of commercial production of plugs, and Tagawa worked closely with Blackmore Company to improve automatic drum seeders and plug trays.
Tagawa also developed germination and growing methods to consistently produce a quality plug. To improve plug quality, Tagawa created a template concept that guides growers on what to do on each day, so that the product can be consistently produced to the highest quality possible.
Working as a team, Tagawa Greenhouses and Blackmore went on to develop the patented Punch ‘N Gro plug transplanting system. Under the previous system, a grower would have to extricate a plant from one tray to another. Punch ‘N Go technology allows growers to push the plant directly through the tray. Today, more than 1,000 Punch ‘N Go machines are use in the U.S. and Canada.
Working with Colorado State University, Tagawa also funded research to identify genes responsible for ethylene production in roses and geraniums, an effort that resulted in several genetic patents.
In everything Tagawa does, he considers relationships first — those with his family, suppliers and customers. To that end, Tagawa helped develop the Greenhouse Services Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that provides group wholesale purchasing of natural gas supply for greenhouses and agriculture-related businesses. Recognizing the need for a strong, prepared next-generation floral industry, he’s also provided internships to international and domestic students, many of whom went on to manage major businesses.
Tagawa has served on the American Floral Endowment Board and chaired the group’s Research and Education Committee. Beyond SAF and AFE, he is an active participant in the Colorado Greenhouse Growers Association, the Colorado Floriculture Foundation and Wholesale Florists & Florist Suppliers of America, among other groups.
He also recognizes that success comes by building relationships with local community leaders as well as with local, state and national political players whose decisions can directly affect your business. Tagawa continues to be an active participant in local community affairs, and he has attended many SAF Congressional Action Days and hosted fundraisers for candidates running for state and national elections.
The Society of American Florists is the leading organization representing all segments of the floral industry. SAF is proud to provide marketing, business and government services to its members, including growers, wholesalers, retailers, suppliers, importers, educators, designers and allied organizations. The association was chartered by an act of Congress in 1884.
Source: The Society of American Florists