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Business Q&A -- Bob Crews

Q: What drew you to the lumber brokerage business?

I grew up in the lumber and timber industry. Both sides of my family from my grandfathers' generation on, have been owners and operators in the forest products industry. I've been selling lumber as a wholesale lumber trader for over 20 years. My background prior to that was transportation and production.

Q: How different is the lumber brokering business from when you first got into it?

Less competition now, and after 20 years I have a core group of very good customers and suppliers. We have very few sawmills in production so we have developed very close relationships with our main suppliers. Ten to 15 years ago finding the lumber was the easy part and now the supply side of the equation is much more difficult.

Don't misunderstand the importance of good-quality customers. There is no need for the supply unless you have the demand for the product.

Q: Describe the basic outline of what you do and how you go about making transactions.

We buy and sell single- and multiple-truckload quantities of lumber and millwork for the most part. We have customers that look to us for their particular lumber needs as well as sawmills and other millwork facilities look to us to move certain items they manufacture. We have the good fortune of working in a very honorable profession where your word is your bond. If you tell someone something they count on you to live up to what you say.

Those who lie and cheat in this industry are soon to be on the outside looking in.

Q: What does the 19.3 percent countervailing duty on Canadian lumber mean to local buyers?

The 19.3 percent countervailing duty on Canadian lumber means the local buyers are in for a price increase on lumber. Remember, this is not cast in stone yet, and until it is law we do not know what will happen. The Canadian manufacturers do not have 19.3 percent profit to give to a third party and still stay in business. I would say if this does go through as is, we will eventually lose more production, which drives prices up. We must be very careful in how we impose trade sanctions with other countries, especially our neighbors and friends. The results are far-reaching into all segments of our economy.

Q: What market dictates the amount of activity in your office?

All of the markets: stock market, housing market, energy market. Any market that affects business will create or curtail consumption levels. For the economy to be good it must be consuming goods and services. No single market dictates how our business is going, however, they all affect it.

Q: Do forest fires throughout the West have much impact on your business?

The forest fires in the West for the most part are burning federal forests that are locked up to harvest. This can change real fast and get into more private timber and then yes, it will have more long-term effects. The forest fire situation is one of the main topics of discussion while we are buying and selling lumber, however it has little if any effect on current business.

To suggest a subject for this column, please contact business reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com