Jan. 19 2011 12:00 AM

When Ed Hunter started Hunter Industries, he could not have imagined the legacy he would leave for generations to come.

With his three children, Hunter opened the doors of his new company in San Marcos, California, in 1981. At that time, his grandson Greg was just eight years old; he never thought that Hunter Industries would grow to be the size it is, nor did he even think about working for the company.

Ed Hunter was an engineer, a successful inventor and businessman, a designer, but most of all, a dreamer. He loved challenges, marveled at new technology, and loved to tinker. He developed the PGP rotor and Hunter Industries was on its way. But what set Hunter Industries apart from everyone else was its culture.

Hunter Industries is a unique company. It was unique from the beginning, because its initial mission statement established that one of its core values was, above all, customer satisfaction.

They took it to a higher level. You didn’t feel as though you were doing business with business people, you felt you were working and talking to family. Thirty years later, Greg Hunter says those values have not changed; Hunter Industries is still a family-oriented company.

Hunter grew up in the San Diego area and upon graduation from high school he chose to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He spent his summers working at Hunter Industries, in the machine shop and other sections of the company.

With diploma in hand, Hunter moved to Cary, North Carolina, where Hunter Industries had a facility. He worked in the plant as a manufacturing and products engineer for approximately two years, and then decided to go back to school to study electrical engineering.

During this period, Hunter’s wife Wendy was attending medical school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She became pregnant and when the baby was born, Hunter thought it was prudent for him to stay home and allow his wife to complete her studies, so he took a year off to be a house father.

While at home with his baby, Hunter had some time on his hands.

Not being accustomed to sitting around, he decided to start a computer consulting business. He did a lot of IT consulting and also did some consulting work for Hunter Industries.

In 2004, he moved back to the San Diego area and went back to work at Hunter Industries in the IT department. He was a business analyst and continued in that position for about two years. Over the next three years, he moved into the marketing department and product management, where he held various jobs.

Moving around within the company afforded him opportunities to do and learn many things and be exposed to different parts of the business. “It’s a good thing,” said Hunter. “Being exposed to many areas of the company gave me a better understanding of how things work.”

Greg Hunter was learning—not only the Hunter culture, he was also learning many aspects of the business. As part of the third generation of Hunter Industries, there is no guarantee that he will eventually head up the company. He will have to prove himself. With Hunter as his last name, he will have to work harder to prove that he has developed and learned the skills required for the top job.

“We recently rewrote our mission and value statement, and our core values of customer service, innovation, family, and citizenship continue to be our focus,” Hunter said. “I believe the market has bottomed out and will start growing again. As we make the climb upward, these core values will help in our success in the irrigation market and other markets, such as landscape lighting.”

When asked, ‘What is the most important asset of Hunter Industries,’ without hesitation Hunter answered, “We have a passion for our extended family of customers and employees. It’s really part of who we are and it’s one of the reasons we want to keep the business in the family, because if outside ownership came in, the culture that we’ve developed could be lost.”

When asked if there were any plans in the distant future for selling the company, Hunter responded, “All of the stock in this company is held by family members, and although we don’t always agree on everything, the one thing we all wholeheartedly agree on is that we don’t want to sell.”

The third generation of employees includes cousin Danny, who works in research, and brother-in-law Daryl, who works in quality control. Seven family members and five nonfamily members make up the board of directors; four of the family members are third generation. “It goes to show you that our family commitment is strong.”

“Greg Hunter was quick to realize that our great culture and core values are our relationship with our customers,” said Kevin Gordon, a 14-year Hunter veteran, and sales and marketing manager of FX Luminaire. “He has a good sense of technology and is very focused on the product line.”

Selling their products in more than 80 countries, Hunter feels the need to do a fair amount of travelling. “Visiting our customers and getting to understand the regional nuances are very important,” says Hunter. “It helps us understand the different needs of our customers in different areas. To continue to be successful, we have to provide good customer service to all of our customers.”

Richard Hunter, Greg’s father, who came into the business from its inception, became CEO and president in 1994. “I’m impressed with Greg’s ability to realize that a very strong competitive strength is the relationship with our customers,” said Richard. “This is an engineer talking. Greg has a good sense of where the company needs to go.”

Hunter’s wife, Wendy, is a pediatrician and works in the emergency room of Children’s Hospital in San Diego. They reside in Solana Beach with their two children, Meredith, 8, and Edwin James Hunter II, 3 years old. In their spare time they love to fly and snow ski; their latest passion is paragliding.

As Hunter Industries is poised to embark on its 30th year in business, Greg Hunter looks ahead to another chapter of growth and expansion, and to continue its mission to be the landscape professional’s first choice for irrigation products and services.