Alex T. Hunt, Sr S.P.A. Speech (1962)

Alex T. Hunt, “1962 Strategy Revealed: Southern Pine Association to Carry Out Revised ‘Blueprint for Progress,’” Southern Lumberman 203 (December 15, 1961), 93-4

For the Southern pine lumber industry, a year of action is fast approaching with many vital issues at stake.

Long-term plans and programs are in motion.  The outcome portends great personal significance to each and every “quality” producer.  What we do in 1962 – and how well we do it – may determine the fate of our industry for a hundred years to come.

We are faced with some terrific opportunities along with major problems.  To meet this conflicting situation by the most effective means, the Southern Pine Association has drafted a revised “blueprint for progress.”

In this revised plan, out sights and targets have been raised.  Out time-tables have been moved up.  Our new merchandising objectives are vast and far-reaching in scope.  With the “zero” hour on hand, let’s look at the background against which the campaign is planned.

The Immediate Concern

This region’s forest supply is increasing at such a satisfactory rate that the United States Forest Service predicts the eventual concentration of the nation’s total lumber production in the South.

Certainly, that forecast is encouraging.  But what concerns us much more are the prospects for the immediate future.  The existence of high-quality saw-timber in quantity is a reality today.  This being the case, the need for new and larger outlets for our products is immediate.

To obtain them, we must make a great effort to reverse market trends where the tide has been ebbing.  We should look again to the great markets of the East and Midwest.  We should also explore all promising avenues of research and product improvement.

Such are the objectives of the Association’s 1962 campaign.  Success on all fronts will require some doing.  It’s going to take organization, imagination, lots of digging and plain hard work.  But that’s a small price to pay compared to what we stand to gain. What’s more the chances are excellent that a concentrated effort will bring early rewards.

Solid grounds for optimism can be found in the signs of the times.  From what I’ve read and observed, it’s obvious that strength will be emphasized, as never before, by the new systems of construction.  For the sake of safety and efficiency, the pieces that go into pre-assembled parts must be extra-strong.  Common sense says this is a real “natural” for properly seasons Southern pine.

Several wood species are actually stronger, for their weight, than steel.  It’s also a fact that Southern pine is the strongest of the structural woods.  Moreover, the high natural strength of our species is further increased by proper seasoning, which “pre-shrinks” and stabilizes our lumber.

So, simple logic says we have the ideal material for components and panelized parts, manufactured homes, glued laminated lumber and many other products still in the drawing board stage.

To make it a preferred material as well, is basically a matter of letting those industries know what we have and offering them constructive assistance in design and specifications.  This we are prepared to do in 1962.

Inroads Can Be Reversed

Of course, we’re equally aware of the deep inroads on our markets by products like plywood, gypsum board, aluminum and others.

But while competition from these sources should become more intense, there’s no reason why we can’t reverse the trend with a counter-offensive of our own.

Our chances seem particularly good in areas where we’ve been long on quality but short on promotion.  For example, many builders tell us they are aware that wood is the best material for floor structure.  But they use slabs “because the public has become conditioned to the idea.”

These fellows seem willing to switch horses in mid-stream, if we put things in proper perspective for the public.  Through the Association program, we will let the public know what lumber can do to make the feeling underfoot more comfortable.  Equipped with the facts, home buyers should welcome the greater that comes with wood.

People should also welcome useful information about wood sheathing and siding.  Many folks have no idea that a one-inch thickness of wood gives the same insulation as six inches of brick or 15 inches of concrete.  It’s our job – and our duty – to interpret this for what it means in greater comfort and lower heating and cooling bills.

Further ideas as to the course this promotion can take came from an Association survey of damage caused by Hurricane “Carla” last September, when out staff ordered assistance to rehabilitation agencies in the stricken areas.

During these conferenecs a Texas building official presented graphic evidence on the value of solid wood sheathing as a “brake” against 150 mile-an-hour winds.  A tour of his area showed that extensive damage occurred only when thinner sheathing materials were present.  This kind of evidence will be convincing in our forthcoming campaign.

Home owners should be increasingly responsive to the advantages of  proper seasoning in Southern pine.  The Association’s trade promotion program as long been hammering home this point, and the growing impact is reflected by many favorable developments.

This year, for the first time, one of the nation’s most highly respected and authoritative magazines came out editorially with an unqualified endorsement of “dry” lumber. In this editorial, the building industry was advised that properly seasoned lumber was essential to good construction, and that its use would reduce home building costs.

Some of the largest associations and lumber companies in the West are now stressing the value of seasoning their own advertising  and public relations.  This, plus the continuing S.P.A. crusade, should help to undo the “brainwashing” of the public by promoters of non-wood materials.  Some of these competitors are spending millions of dollars a year trying to convince people that wood is not a dependable building material.  By stressing the permanence and the “preshrunk” condition of seasoned lumber, we’re setting the record straight.

Closer Communication

Conditions in general indicate that the one thing that can help us most in the immediate future is closer communication with all persons who buy, sell, specify and use building materials.

A big step was taken in this direction when the Southern Pine Association initiated and completed a major expansion of its trade promotion program during the past year.  SPA’s staff of technical field representatives has been virtually doubled.  As a result, we shall be far better equipped in 1962 to contact and give direct assistance to dealers, architects, builders, engineers, government agencies, and all others who control specifications.  We can also concentrate more effectively in specialized areas that offer great potential for lumber, such as school and church construction.

The retail lumber dealer will be a key man in the expanded effort.  Experience has proven that dealers offer a highly efficient and reliable medium for getting our products to the public.  We intend to give them every possible assistance, involving many new services, in this vital job.

Our public relations staff has also been increased, along with out investment in advertising, research, promotional films, literature, and selling aids for dealers and builders.

In supervising and accomplishing this expansion within an amazingly short time, our Trade Promotion Committee has done a terrific job.  The same can be said for our new Public Relations Committee in carrying out related activities which strongly supplement the trade promotion effort.

Less spectacular, perhaps, but just as important, is the fine job being done by our Membership Development Committee.

Stronger Membership

If it weren’t for the work of this dedicated group of men, we could never have expanded our program.  This increased firepower the program has acquired is the direct result of a stronger, more determined Association membership.  It also reflects the new spirit of an industry conditioning itself for the future.

The Southern pine lumber industry is blessed with great aggregate resources.  If these resources are effectively channeled, the industry will have unlimited potential for promotion, research and product improvement.  The growing willingness of “quality” producers to close ranks and pull together is solid evidence that the industry is aware of the opportunities and making a fine start in the right direction.

In these critical times, it would be folly to let up the crusade to enlist all “quality” producers under the Association banner.  The more support it gets from the industry as a whole, the more effectively the Association program will be.  Obviously, the Association is the ideal medium for marshaling the industry’s resources.  Its programs is designed to improve the lot of all producers of quality Southern pine. In return, it deserves their wholehearted support.  The sight of a determined industry, showing great zeal for constructive progress, will also have a terrific impact on the public.

Millions of people earn income directly or indirectly from the growth, manufacture and use of Southern pine lumber.  They benefit when we solve our problems and eliminate roadblocks to progress.  To earn general confidence in our efforts, we must prove that we are mutually resolved to advance the public welfare through a solid build-up of our lumber economy.  In the process, we can recruit an entire army of supporters and patrons of quality Southern pine.

Stronger Identity

During 1962, the Association will seek to establish a stronger public identity for its member companies and their products.  Our promotion will stress the progressive attitude of SPA mills and their role of leadership in advancing the lumber economy.  The SPA trade mark will be advertised to the consumer as a symbol of the highest standards in the lumber industry.

By this new approach, we hope to accomplish two objectives.  First, we want to make the public better acquainted with the Association and its objectives.  Thus informed, the public will rally behind our program and give support to SPA mills at the local level.  The help and patronage of our friends and neighbors is essential if we are to solve our problems and develop the kind of markets we need.

Secondly, we will provide the strongest incentives for SPA membership.  To gain wide popular recognition of Association mills as a reliable source of all that’s good in lumber is an obligation we owe our members. It should be the strongest kind if stimulant to sales, and prove he SPA membership is not only a source of pride, but highly profitable as well.

No Doubts Whatsoever

In summary, our 1962 program calls for larger objectives, increased firepower, closer communication with the consumers, greater concentration on specific markets and public identity for SPA mills.  The program offers a direct and effective means of reaching the targets that are within conventional reach – in short, a “blueprint for progress” – based on solid realism.

If our industry gives wholehearted support, I have no doubts whatsoever as to the result.