Adapting in a Volatile Marketplace
Mr. Joe Nealon, President of Pacific Western Lumber (PacWest) has dedicated 41 years to the timber and lumber business. He started PacWest 26 years ago right here in Lakewood along with Bill McGovern, Dan Spriestersbach and Dave Betz.
The company is a broker/wholesaler of lumber products and exclusive provider of “Woodguard” a boric acid treated plastic coated lumber mainly used for horse fencing/residential applications and playground equipment. Only about 10% of their products are sold here and the rest is sold outside the state, making them a primary business that brings in new money to the economy. PacWest’s primary focus is on U.S. sales however, they also sell to Canada and Mexico. Pacwest also has a branch sales office in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The lumber business itself has been quite volatile. Mr. Nealon sees an eroding supply chain and that is of concern. Most of this he feels has to do with public policy allowing materials and processes required to produce these products. The industry has seen increasing raw materials costs while lumber product prices have been in decline. This has been going on for several years creating an industry in disarray with little hope for a turnaround any time soon.
The good news is that PacWest continues to operate successfully. Woodguard continues to be a hot seller and they have done a good job of penetrating the agriculture industry with products such as “grape stakes.” One of the unique features of Woodguard that appeals to growers is that it has been certified as an Organic processing aide by the WSDA. Mr. Nealon hopes to increase sales to wineries, particularly in California. Much of their success has been due to sheer experience, market knowledge and the ability to adapt. For example, some years ago when hops were all the rage and hard to come by, Yakima Valley was producing 40% of all the hops in the U.S. and PacWest produced and sold “hop poles” to many businesses in that area.
Another popular product, Crane Mats used to create heavy load-bearing flooring in challenging terrain, is being sold by PacWest. There is a particular need for this product in Northern Alberta where supply is an issue.
The company sees more of the same in operations over the next year. One challenge they’ve had is to find experienced lumber traders. Most of the workforce is in their 50’s with very little interest by younger folks to follow in their footsteps. They do intend to create new jobs for other positions in the not to distant future.
Mr. Nealon has a vested interested in the City of Lakewood and is an active participant in his community. He is also very interested in the current business landscape and in continued participation with other commercial property owners in the area.