(UPDATED COVERAGE, 6 p.m.)
Brooks Tropicals LLC has brought in a beverage industry veteran as its new chief executive officer.
Greg Smith succeeds Craig Wheeling, who retired Feb. 4 after serving as the Homestead, Fla.-based Brooksâ chief executive officer and later president since 1994.
Smith, who worked 37 years at Coca-Cola franchise bottlers in Austin, Texas, Houston and Shreveport, La., has been a longtime friend of Neal Palmer "Pal" Brooks, Brooksâ owner, and has served on Brooksâ board of directors.
Brooks said Smith should provide his company that grows, ships and markets papayas, avocadoes and tropicals a needed balance.
âI get excited when I talk about marketing, selling and growing,â Brooks said. âHe complements me because he brings administrative skills to handle all the organization requires between the things Iâm not good at and the things heâs good at.â
Smith said he brings Brooks a background of operations, finance, auditing and procurement. He said the beverage and tropical fruit industries share some commonality in that both are required to operate under food safety standards.
Smith said Brooks has kept him updated on industry issues during the last couple of years. He said he plans to support Brooksâ field packing and sales and marketing operations by at first focusing on the companyâs finances.
âPal has the farming experience but needs the administrative expertise,â Smith said. âHe has the farmers but just needs someone to look at it administratively. The sheer science that goes into farming fascinates me. Thereâs a lot of business and finance associated with that. Itâs not just sticking something in the ground and collecting money. This is an industry thatâs very interesting.â
Smith said he sees himself becoming passionate about the business and said he envisions large opportunities where he can help the operation thatâs 16 years shy of turning 100 hit that benchmark year by expanding its presence in its product offerings.
Smith began working at Brooks on March 14. He entered the business world by working at a Coca Cola bottler after graduating from high school in 1973.