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Keithly-Williams Seeds' success

December 18, 2001|By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Keithly-Williams Seeds has been a presence in the city since 1981.

The business started with Kelly Keithly, Walt Williams and two employees.

The firm now has 41 employees, including salesmen and support staff, and operates in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California and eight states in Mexico.

"I have never purposely expanded unless a situation presented itself and we took advantage of it. I hire really good people. They are self-starters and don't need to be baby-sat on a daily basis," Keithly said. "With faxes, telephones and computers, communication is a lot better."

Keithly transferred to the area in 1972 with Ferry-Morris Seed Co. In 1975 he started working for Walt Williams, owner of I.V. Milling. In 1981, after Williams sold his business, Keithly-Williams Seeds was formed.

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Williams, 86, has never been active in the business except to attend meetings, make deliveries or run errands and be available to Kelly for consultations.

Early on Keithly and Williams identified a need for Imperial Valley farmers to have ready access to a wide variety of quality seed products. That need served as the basis for an overall company philosophy that stands today: "We sell where you grow."

With seven offices throughout the West, local farmers, as well as those in other states, have ready access to a huge variety of the most-sought-after seed products.

The company stocks seed products from more than 30 different breeder/producers. The seeds and supplies are stored in a unique climate-controlled storage facility.

The main office, at 420 Palm Ave. in Holtville, was built on the site of the former Thor Packing Co. The nearly 10,000- square-foot building houses a 6,000-square-foot. warehouse in addition to a large office complex. K-W Seeds offers growers consultant-type services, new seed variety introductions, on-site variety trials and professional experienced recommendations.

Keithly said "most days" he gets a lot of satisfaction from his job.

"Overall I find it very satisfying, the things I have been able to do business-wise and community-wise. Because my business has been successful, it has allowed me the time and ability to get involved in other things and give back to the local community."

He is active in Holtville Rotary, and is serving his third term as a trustee for Imperial Valley College. He is the western region vice president of the American Seed Trade Association and is the former president of the California Seed Association. Whenever possible he attends meetings of the Federation of International Seedmen.

Keithly also is involved in the Agriculture Alumni Council at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Last year he received the distinguished citizen's award from the university's alumni association.

He and his family have been active in St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Holtville since they moved to town. For more than 25 years he has been an elder of the church.

Keithly has always been a generous supporter of the California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta. He also supports Turning Point Ministries and New Creations and Literacy Volunteers of America.

Keithly enjoys the travel involved with K-W Seeds. Over the last three years he has traveled more than 100,000 miles.

"I love the travel involved with the business, to see the people I work with. It has given me a much different outlook of the world. The travel is my favorite part of the job, but I enjoy getting home on weekends and spending time with my wife, Cheryl."

The Keithlys have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

"I enjoy making this seed business grow and do things with it I never dreamed of doing," he said.

His long-range plans include turning over the company to his son, Ernie, and his son-in-law, Pat Cooley.

"I would like to have some place to come but also be smart enough to step away when I am no longer useful," Keithly said. "I would like to spend less time in Holtville and more time in service to others. I have no idea what that is, but I am just waiting for the Lord to show me."

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