THOMASVILLE, NC - Exports of hardwood are driving growth for Prime Lumber, which shipped more than 50% of it's volume overseas.

As a result, Prime Lumber the 2014 North Carolina Exporter of the Year by that state's  Department of Agriculture.

Prime Lumber shipped more than 600 40-foot shipping containers overseas, which calculates to 8.5 million board feet. Overall the state exports $1.5 billion in forestry products.

“North Carolina exports $3.9 billion worth of agricultural products. When you add forestry products, such as those exported by Prime Lumber, the numbers top the $5 billion mark,” NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. A slide show on forest products markets from North Carolina details the numbers.

The Thomasville-based Prime Lumber processes and sells hardwoods for use in furniture, architectural millwork, cabinetry, flooring, musical instruments and decorative items. Founded in 1988 by Graban and Neidert, Prime Lumber has been exporting since its first year in operation.

The lumber company recently added three new kilns to increase its capacity and support further international growth. Lumber is stacked on specialized kiln sticks to eliminate sticker shadow/stain, and kiln sticks are placed 12” apart to ensure flatness, Prime Lumber says. At least eight wood samples per kiln charge are tested to ensure proper statistical sampling. All woods are graded before and after kiln drying.

Prime Lumber president Bill Graban told the Winston-Salem Journal his firm ships to Asia and Europe, with the fastest growth in China. 

“It used to be when we shipped lumber to China, they made furniture and sent it back, but in the last five years, that’s changed,” Graban told the paper. “About 75 percent of the lumber we ship stays in China for furniture that they use in products in China. As that population grows and their wealth grows, the middle class is growing exponentially.”

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