Meeting a visionary is worth remembering
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   People come and people go, but every so often you meet someone who makes you think.
   Harold Tanouye, Jr. is one of those people. 
   Harold was 28 years old when he decided to make his way in the world. A resident of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, Harold was itching to be “part of the business and political movement” that was touting everything Hawaii. It was 1964.
   “I was gung ho about Hawaii and wanted to do something for Hilo’s economic development,” recalls Tanouye.
   Harold left his father’s tire business and eyed the business of exporting. He checked into two commodities: fruit and flowers. He found the waxy, heart-shaped anthurium flowers that protruded a “little boy” spike prime for exporting. In fact, Harold was already privy to the “wow factor” of anthuriums. 
      “I attended a college in Iowa, which meant in those days, I stayed away for more than four years,” details Harold. “I would visit with classmates over the holidays and so my mother sent along a box of anthuriums as a hostess gift. People raved about them; they couldn’t believe how long the flowers stayed fresh. They had never seen anything like it.” 
    For his new company, Harold developed 15 acres of planting. He went into abandoned fields and bought plants by the wheelbarrow load. In those days, floraculture was a Hawaii cottage industry and there were only three colors of anthuriums: red, light red and orange. 
   To create a demand, Harold traveled to the U.S. Mainland. “I did a lot of walking,” he laughs. “I had boxes of flowers sent to my hotel and I took them with me to work on wholesalers.” Harold also stopped in at florist schools and impressed them his exotic tropical bounty of ti leaf, ginger and anthuriums. 
   “They were in awe,” he remembers.
   On his travels, the enterprising entrepreneur discovered wholesalers ran out of red flowers for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Harold decided to target sales for those holidays. “I’d go visit in November so I was fresh in their minds when they needed flowers,” he recalls.
   On the road, Harold met a businessman who was exporting gladiolas from Florida to Europe. In 1971, the man agreed to take 25 boxes of large, red anthuriums to Rome. 
   “I was shocked when he came back with a standing order of 2,000 dozen a week!” exclaims Harold. “That was the biggest order anybody in Hawaii had ever heard of.”
   Harold went to work on increasing flower production and speeding up packing techniques. Besides improving plant nutrition, he switched growing mediums, going from degradable sugar bagasse to volcanic cinder. He also put plants in shade cloth greenhouses and devised a new packing system to keep flowers fresh for international transport.
   According to Harold, once anthuriums became a credible export, infrastructure started growing for the industry and the University of Hawaii went to work to create new varieties with more colors. Today, on any given day, Harold has 20 to 25 different varieties of anthuriums available at his company, the sprawling Green Point Nurseries. 
    “The debut of a large, rose-opal-pink anthurium, Marian Seefurth, launched us,” he recalls. The cultivar was named after a UH research benefactor who loved anthuriums and often stayed at the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.
   Over the years, Harold has continued to improve growing and packing scenarios. Green Point Nurseries has been lauded with numerous business awards, including being named the state’s Exporter of the Year for 1992 and an Outstanding Agricultural Award winner in 2004. 
   Harold is known as a pioneer of Hawaii’s floraculture industry, putting tropical exotic flowers on the map, so to speak. And he still believes in the “wow’ factor of anthuriums, often taking home a fresh bouquet to his wife Lillian.
 
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