As a major family-owned Jefferson County employer with staying power — 75 years and counting — Marks Lumber was named Business of the Year by the Jefferson Local Development Corporation.
Owner/Operator Steve Marks and his wife, Laura, were presented with the award at the Marks Lumber headquarters in Clancy on Sept. 10.
“It’s been quite a journey, to say the least,” said Steve Marks after a history of the business was told by JLDC Board President Adam Senechal.
The company produces a wide range of wood products — from wood flooring, rough cut timbers, siding and paneling to playground surface material, landscape materials and biofuel.
Marks Lumber uses Douglas fir, logged mostly from western Montana, said Steve.
The $3-4 million a year business works directly with loggers and customers, with flooring as the biggest seller, said Steve.
Much of Marks Lumber’s products are rough sawn, with Douglas fir being a dense, strong wood with vibrant reds and whites, said Steve.
“We call it the Montana look,” said Steve, adding that their products are shipped all over the country, from as far east as New York and as far south as Texas.
The Marks family can trace their start in Montana back to the 1880s, when Ernest Marks bought one of the first homesteads. Ernest and his son, Merle, helped their neighbors with blacksmithing, and began milling timber for mostly agricultural use.
A mill was installed at the ranch around 1938, and Merle’s son Bob, and his wife, Barbara, continued ranching and milling rough lumber for the ranch as well as for extra money.
Later, Steve and Laura retrofitted the old mill and began a tradition of innovation and efficiency with not only the product, but also its labor force. The company uses the whole log to develop a product that is commercially viable. The best logs are turned into wood flooring, siding and other timber products. Poor quality logs are turned into landscape materials.
Over the years, the Marks’ have added a planer mill for specialty products, a band mill to improve efficiency, grinding capability and a bark sorting plant to use wood fiber that had previously been burned, an in-house timber frame shop to provide complete timber frame construction to customers and an optimizing trim saw and end-masher to improve product quality and make flooring easier to install.
The company has also implemented a stock order process to better serve its customers who are picking up their orders.
Today the company has 22 employees, with another to soon join the team.
“You’re only as good as the people working for you,” said Steve.
Marks Lumber was one of three businesses and organizations recognized by the Jefferson Local Development Corporation. Also honored this year was the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce with the Community Improvement Award and Discovery Kidzone Learning Centers in Montana City with the Innovative Business of the Year Award.