[ INSIDE HAWAII INC.]
New CEO of building-products company seeks to raise the bar
Question: What brought you from a large national corporation to a local company in Hawaii?
CARL A. LILIEQUIST
>> New job: Chief executive of the new parent company of Honsador Lumber, Ariel Truss and Honolulu Wood Treating. The companies were sold a year ago to a private investment company affiliated with Cleveland-based KeyCorp.
» Old job: He is a 28-year veteran of Huttig Building Products Inc. and PGL Building Products, which Huttig acquired in 1988. He most recently was executive vice president and has been working out of St. Louis. Huttig's sales last year totaled nearly $1 billion.
» Age: 52
» Start date: In January.
It was an opportunity to do something different. I wanted to get the chance to be the CEO of a company and I was ready. I had done this for a long time and I was just ready to do something different. I either wanted to do something involved with private equity, which this is, or a private company.
Q: What types of investments have the new owners made?
A: The business has grown substantially over the last several years. There have been investments in equipment, trucks, forklifts, all of those ... but there's also been significant investment in the truss plant. New truss equipment recently was installed in Ariel Truss in Honolulu and that was a very significant investment, increased capacity. In 2006, a new information technology system will be implemented.
Q: What is the IT project?
A: There's going to be a new fully integrated system installed in the company by the end of 2006 that will tie all the businesses together on one system. Basically an enterprise-based system for the entire business.
It's probably the biggest investment in the company in 2006. In 2005, the company invested millions in the business and will continue to invest in the business in 2006.
Q: What were your achievements at Huttig?
A: The company was performing poorly and since that time we grew sales at double digits year over year. The stock price went from under $3 a share to about $9 a share. Personally, I'd say the thing I'm most proud of is the team we put in place to run the business.
Q: What got in you into the building-products industry?
A: I had worked in construction when I was in college. When I graduated I was interested in staying in the business but not necessarily being a construction worker. So I ended up working for this company in Seattle, PGL, a building products distribution company, and one thing led to another.
Q: What's your outlook?
A: I think Hawaii is a robust market today. I think you have a lot of forces that are going to continue to influence construction in Hawaii. I think in Hawaii you sort of have a dual situation. You have the influence of the Asian economies: It's a desirable place to be for sure. And then you have the whole second-home phenomenon that is driving the housing not only in Hawaii but across the country. And then you have all this federal money for the military and etc. in Hawaii that you maybe don't have elsewhere.
Some people are pessimistic about the housing bubble nationally but I don't personally don't feel that way.
Q: Last word?
A: We want to continue to improve the company and raise the bar. The company has great employees, has been successful and we want to continue to raise the bar not only for ourselves and for our customers but for the competition.
And I would say we want to grew internally and we wouldn't be opposed to acquisitions if they met the criteria and fit the core business. And I would expect strong business conditions to continue through 2006, I would say nationally and even more so in the state of Hawaii.
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