Gardener’s Supply Company of Burlington has been named the 2018 ESOP Company of the Year by The ESOP Association. The announcement was made at the association’s annual conference. Founded in 1983 by Will Raap, the company launched its ESOP only a few years later, in 1987. By 2009, Gardener’s was 100 percent employee owned. The company’s 225 regular year-round employees are eligible to participate in the ESOP, as are repeat seasonal employees.
“Gardener’s Supply is a prime example of an ESOP company that actively engages its employee owners, the employee ownership community, and elected officials at the state and federal levels,” said ESOP Association President J. Michael Keeling. “Its commitment to sharing with others the power of ESOPs is an example all ESOP companies can proudly seek to replicate.”
Gardener’s shares information about its ESOP through an 11-member ESOP Committee, which meets for 60-90 minutes every other week. One Committee member serves as a non-voting liaison to the Board of Directors, and attends the quarterly board meetings.
The company meets regularly with the Governor of Vermont, and works with members of Congress in the House and Senate to promote pro-employee ownership legislation.
Internally, Gardener’s offers a wide range of educational and inspirational activities to help its employee owners learn about ESOPs and the company culture. Externally, it shares lessons it has learned by participating in and speaking at chapter and national meetings of The ESOP Association.