W&WP September 2004


The WOOD 100: 15 Years and Counting

By Rich Christianson


When the WOOD 100 set sail on its maiden voyage this April, we had no idea who would be on board when it reached port. All we knew was that its passenger list would be comprised of some of the U.S. secondary wood products industry's hottest growth companies, each in business since at least 1987.

With those introductory words, Wood & Wood Products unveiled its first WOOD 100 Report in December 1990. Fourteen annual reports later, the WOOD 100 remains a unique and compelling compendium of North American wood products companies varied by age, size, location and product mix, yet joined together by growth.

Where else but the WOOD 100 would one find a company like R&K Millwork, with 2003 sales of $120,000, sharing the same spotlight as MasterBrand Cabinets, $1.5 billion in annual sales?

The fact that the WOOD 100 does not discriminate on the basis of size is amplified by the slogan, "Not the Biggest, the Best." In turn, the slogan is amply illustrated by a cursory review of the accomplishments of the only four companies to appear in both the inaugural WOOD 100 Report and the 15th annual report that begins on page 57 of this issue.

* Oak Craft Inc. was a 50-man cabinet shop in Phoenix with 1988 sales of $1.5 million when it ranked No. 14 in the first WOOD 100. Now located in Peoria, AZ, the company employs 225 people and had sales of $16.5 million last year.

* Wind Mill Woodworking of Sheboygan Falls, WI, grew its slatwall and component business from $2.2 million in 1988 to nearly $10 million in 2003. While Wind Mill's annual sales have skyrocketed, employment has actually dropped from 60 to 56 people, a testament to upgrades in equipment and production efficiency.

* T.J. Hale Co. of Menomonee Falls, WI, increased sales of custom store fixtures from $5.9 million in 1988 to $40.1 million in 2003. Annual sales multiplied nearly seven times and employment doubled from 75 to 150 workers.

* Lexington Mfg. of Minneapolis, MN, has continued to update its arsenal of CNC equipment for machining value-added components for a variety of markets. Company sales grew leaps and bounds, from $1.4 million in 1988 to $31.4 million in 2003. Lexington's tremendous growth provides employment opportunities for 225 people, compared to 40 in 1990.

'Constantly Changing Blend'
It is interesting to look back at the track records of companies that have made multiple appearances in the WOOD 100. Indeed, 44 of the companies in the 15th Annual WOOD 100 Report were also in last year's report. But the WOOD 100 is far from a static list. It is a constantly changing blend of new and old companies. In fact, 44 of this year's class did not exist when the first WOOD 100 was published in 1990.

It has been both an honor and a privilege to pay homage to fast-growing wood products companies. It is our sincerest hope that readers pick up an idea or two from the WOOD 100 company summaries that they can use to make their own businesses more successful.

This year's WOOD 100 report would not be possible if not for the hard work of authors Laurel Jorgensen and Katie Coleman; editors Karen Koenig and J.D. Piland; graphic artists Yoshi Sekiguchi and Laurie Casselberry; and administrative support staffers Blanca Hernandez, April Dean and Jill Smith.

Thanks to all. You each have a year to recharge.

WOOD 100 Reps to Get VIP Treatment at AWFS Vegas
Representatives of companies participating in next year's WOOD 100 will find that membership has its privileges.

Through special arrangement with the AWFS Vegas Fair, WOOD 100 executives will:
* be honored in an awards banquet,
* be eligible for free hotel rooms, and
* receive free admission for themselves and all company personnel attending the July 27-30, 2005, woodworking exhibition at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
To accommodate the AWFS Vegas schedule, the 16th Annual WOOD 100 Report will be published in August 2005.

To get on the 2005 WOOD 100 qualification form mailing list, contact Rich Christianson at rchristianson@vancepublishing.com or (847) 634-4347, ext. 652. Look for additional details in future issues of Wood & Wood Products.


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