January and February 2007
NEW CYBER MARKETPLACE FOR TIMBER
TimberBuySell.com is a new online resource to buy and sell timber
By Barbara Coyner
Missoula’s daily newspaper calls it “a dating service for the forest products industry.” The new website www.TimberBuySell.com rolled out in November, offering on-line hookups to a host of players in the wood products industry.
Thanks to the new cyber gathering place, a logger with a glut of small-diameter timber can match up with a log furniture manufacturer, or a small-scale sawmill can find a home for its piles of sawdust. TimberBuySell.com stands ready to transform production and effort into profit with just a few keystrokes. “Tricon [a sawmill in St. Regis, Mont.] posted an ad on Tuesday,” says website instigator Craig Rawlings, detailing a recent example of the site’s success. “Angelo Ververis called and left me a message the next day, saying ‘Craig, we got a call from a forestland owner in Troy, Mont., wanting to sell timber. I can’t believe we got a response in less than 24 hours.’ Karen Kovatch of Roundwood West in Seeley Lake, Mont. said she received two out-of-state calls, in less than a week, responding to her ad for lodgepole pine.”
TimberBuySell.com bounded out of the starting gate with nearly 3,000 hits the first month. The site furnishes postings for forest residue, logs, mill residue, and standing timber, listing buyers and sellers for each category. Upon logging in, visitors can link to specific ads, many of them containing familiar logos and detailed text about the company and its product needs. How it works Developed with a user-friendly format, the web address invites buyers and sellers to choose between two levels of ads. The basic ad runs 250 words and allows for a picture, with a one-month posting costing $50. The premium ad upgrades to 10,000 characters and a maximum of 10 photos, and features discount possibilities, depending on the length of run and number of individual postings. A premium ad running for 30 days starts at $75.
The website also offers email alerts for a fee, enabling buyers or sellers to stay in the loop on pre-specified products or opportunities. Registration and membership details are spelled out on-line, with a bundle of extras such as national news postings, and conference and meeting announcements.
Ignited by Fire
Just how the website got started is best told by the lively on-line narrative:
Like the seeds of a Ponderosa, TimberBuySell.com was brought to life by fire. For most of the twentieth century the U.S. Forest Service suppressed every wildfire it could get to, no matter what the cause. However by the late 1980s, some officials began rethinking that strategy. They made the case that total suppression had led to overgrowth, which in turn fueled catastrophic wildfires. Part of this reassessment was a recognition of the need to thin overgrown stands of small trees in the Wildlands Urban Interface, or WUI.
At about this time, agency budgets were being slashed (pardon the expression), so those thinning projects had to somehow pay for themselves.
In response, a group of Forest Service employees began to seek ways of using and marketing small diameter logs. One of the leaders of this effort was Dean Graham, who worked for the Forest Products Labs in Madison, Wisconsin, and who created that organization’s State & Private Forestry Technology Marketing Unit. Rosalie Cates was a kindred spirit. As the Executive Director of the Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC) in Missoula, Montana, Rosalie recognized a kind of convergence. Montana had lots of small trees and lots of timber-oriented companies; finding new uses for smallwoods would help both forests and businesses, and at the same time achieve one of MCDC’s main goals: helping businesses in communities throughout the state.
In 2002, Cates signed up Craig Rawlings as MCDC’s Smallwood Enterprise Agent. Rawlings, who had spent years in a family wood products business and had also managed a large sawmill, took on the role with gusto. No technophobe, he liberally used the Internet to network with various forestry, community development, and wood products players. In four years, he had built the Smallwood Utilization Network (SUN) newsletter distribution list up to 2,500 people.
Newsletter leads to website
“We started with a newsletter and wanted to bring things to the next level with a website and a forum. Now it’s a standalone website,” says Rawlings. “TimberBuySell is a new help to the whole industry and will focus on the national scene, not just Montana. This could go worldwide and there are all kinds of possibilities.”
With the website expanding, Rawlings hired Nora McDougall-Collins in 2006 as the full-time web moderator. McDougall-Collins dubs herself a computer nerd, but she’s proven to be more than that, getting out of the office to watch equipment demonstrations and learn other aspects of the timber industry. Her design talents contribute to a fresh online look, and her computer expertise keeps the site functioning smoothly.
Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, Rawlings is letting the website take root, as he focuses on TimberBuySell.com’s participation as a sponsor for the upcoming Small Log Conference scheduled for March 28-30, 2007 in Coeur d’Alene.
“If this conference is anything like the first two we attended, we’ll come out with a lot of knowledge and key contacts that will help our efforts in this arena,” Rawlings says. “We’re so impressed with TimberWest’s previous two conferences that we’re sponsoring the event this time and will be an exhibitor at the Suppliers Showcase as well.”
This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2007