During the collapse of the building industry in 2008 and 2009, while other lumber businesses were scaling back and even shutting down, Steve Marks, of Marks Lumber in Clancy, Montana, boldly invested in new equipment. The outcome of this risky business move was the company’s strongest sales figures of the past decade, a 93% net revenue growth in 2010.
As a result of the new equipment purchased, Marks’ capitalized on the devastating Mountain Pine Beetle infestation that took over the forests of Montana and the west. Marks won a contract from the Montana Forest Service for forest fuel treatment of 900 acres and a 10 year 30,000 acre contract from the Bureau of Land Management.
As a third generation timberman, Marks started falling timber on neighboring ranches at age 16. Shortly after graduating high school, Marks started his first business buying stumpage and harvesting timber to sell to mills in western Montana.
Then came the crash of the market in the early 80’s and Marks scaled back his timber business to take over the family ranch. In 1989, struggling cattle prices drove Marks back into the timber business and he officially launched Marks Lumber. Initially Marks Lumber was a part-time venture to compliment the existing ranching operation, but as the demand grew for sawmill products, Steve focused his efforts on building the sawmill operation.
Marks Lumber produces distinctive products including circular-sawn tongue-and-groove flooring, exposed structural beams, colored mulch and most recently, expanded into forest management services. Marks Lumber is a custom mill that prides itself on making products with a “Montana” look that are used in custom built houses across the west.
Through continued innovation Marks Lumber has lasted through the ebb and flow of the Montana timber industry and has overcame obstacle after obstacle. In times where small businesses across the nation are shutting down and laying off employees, Marks continues to grow his business and has never had to lay off a single employee.
Marks Lumber has thrived when the number of lumber mills in Montana has declined by almost half, to less than 20, and is one of the few saw mills left in the northwest to make circle saw lumber.
Marks Lumber’s success can be attributed to Marks’ constant dedication, flexibility and product diversification.
With the attitude of continual improvements, flexibility and innovation, Marks Lumber is poised for continued growth and leadership in Montana’s timber industry despite the continued hardships experienced by others in the industry.
Steve Marks sheer determination and ingenuity is why he is a recognized leader in his market niche in Montana and why he was named Timberman of the Year by the Montana Wood Products Association in 2010.
Steve Marks was named SBA’s 2011 Small Business Person of the Year.