The northern spotted owl and a slow construction picture in Utah notwithstanding, two brothers who operate the Weyerhaeuser plant at 2600 S. 600 West still believe the worst is over, and their optimism is evident.
In case you haven't been keeping up with the news recently, the northern spotted owl has been declared an endangered species so the U.S. Forest Service will limit the amount of timber cut in the Northwest to protect the owl's habitat. That is where all of the timber for the South Salt Lake Weyerhaeuser operation originates.Despite controversy over the owl and the sluggishness in the home building and construction industries, John and Wayne Turner say their Weyerhaeuser operation has shown a 30 percent increase in sales in each of the past three years.
They attribute the increases to a combination of a lean independent operation (theirs) and the size of the Weyerhaeuser corporate umbrella, which has $10 billion in annual sales.
John, the general manager, and Wayne, the financial officer, merged their Imperial Wholesale Supply with Weyerehaeuser in 1987, and that year the company lost $400,000. But in 1988 the plant had an $800,000 profit and last year that increased to $1.1 million.
The Turner brothers come from a long line of lumber operators who, in the 1930s, started Turner Builder's Supply. In 1964, Ben Turner, father of John and Wayne, started a retail lumber business at 1876 W. Fortune Road, with his brothers, Robert and Jack.
As the business grew, it was evident they needed a distribution center, so they formed Imperial Wholesale Supply.
In 1976, the brothers went their separate ways with Ben receiving the wholesale distribution business, Robert got the retail stores in Roosevelt and Vernal, and Jack got the trucking company, the planing mill and some property in Heber City.
Wayne, who came off a mission to Taiwan for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1979, and John, who graduated from the Brigham Young University Law School in 1980, became partners in Imperial in 1980.
Imperial kept plugging along in the early 1980s, relying on its dedicated employees to help the company make a slight profit in the face of a sagging construction industry hurt by high interest rates.
John recalls that Weyerhaeuser officials approached the Turners in 1987 about a merger. "It is difficult for an independent business owner because so many things can go wrong, so we thought the merger was a good deal," John said. He said now he doesn't have to worry about answering to a bank, something left to corporate officials.
Weyerhaeuser, with headquarters in Tacoma, Wash., has 35 branches in the United States. The South Salt Lake plant makes 85 percent of its wholesale sales in Utah. A good portion of the products sold are "engineered," that is wood items altered from their original condition such as glue laminated beams, I-beams, laminated veneer lumber and strand board, which takes the place of plywood in sub-flooring and siding.
The company also deals in redwood lumber, commercial doors and high-grade fir lumber (no knots).
The Turners, who have won several company awards for sales growth and improved performance, attribute their success to 25 dedicated employees headed by Wanda Zamber, administrative assistant, Cole Dalton, operations manager, and Mike Beck, sales manager.
In spite of the success they have achieved, the Turners believe the lumber industry will change drastically in the next 10 years. That will include more composite items (one item made of several components), new manufacturing techniques and new technology.
Even though lumber companies have been bashed by environmentalists, the Turners say Weyerhaeuser owns plenty of timberland and also leases land from the federal government, so it's in the company's own interest to protect the environment. That's why the company plants millions of trees annually.