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Universal Makes Fortunes List
GRAND RAPIDS — For the first time in company history, Universal Forest Products Inc. is ranked on the Fortune magazine list of the top 1000 companies. The Grand Rapids-based manufacturer, marketer and distributor of value-added lumber products made its debut this week at No. 921 on the prestigious listing.
The ranking is especially pleasing for UFPI Chairman Peter Secchia because the lumber market has been in a decline for the past three years: down 20 percent last year, 17 percent the previous year and 7 percent the year before that.
“The lumber we’re selling is almost half the price that it used to be and we’re still holding our top-line sales,” he said.
Fortune placed Universal in the forest products and paper category, and the magazine rated the firm as sixth in return on investment, sixth in return on assets, and seventh in shareholders’ total return in that group.
“In a tough market, they’re doing awfully well — in a very tough market,” said Secchia of his management team.
“One-third of our business was manufactured housing and that business is off 40 percent as an industry. And the wood fiber that we’re selling is down a cumulative 50 percent in the last 2 ½ years,” he added. “So we have to sell twice as many units to maintain our 1999 sales level. We were off a few percent last year. But what we’ve done is pretty marvelous, when you think about it.”
Secchia told the Business Journal that with all the declining markets Universal serves, the company could have been down as much as 62 percent over the past three years. Instead, he said the firm has reached a new pinnacle with the Fortune ranking.