Father and son Chad and Ladd Moore love nothing more than figuring out how to make the unlikely likely, and the next-to-impossible possible.
As Uresco Construction Materials is the second-largest independent shipper of building materials to Alaska (and, at $42.9 million in 2015 sales, the No. 85 company on the 2016 ProSales 100), they meet logistics challenges every day of the week: Like how to ship all the materials for 20 houses to Barrow, 320 miles above the Arctic Circle and reachable only by barge. Or how to remanufacture and transport 20-foot shipping containers—including electrical, bunk beds, sink, and incinerator toilet—so they can be used as emergency shelters.
When Uresco ships materials to a builder in Alaska, it’s sending everything needed to build the house; the tools, the gas and all-terrain vehicles needed to transport the material when it arrives; the heating oil for the home; and the paper towels and cleaning products the homeowners will need when they move in. A miscalculation can seriously impact a client’s timeline and strain a carefully nurtured relationship, as well as dent the dealer’s budget.
“If you miss a delivery in Seattle it might put the framing crew off a few days, but if you miss a delivery to Alaska it can put the crew off by six to nine months,” says company vice president Ladd Moore. For example, in western Alaska, the last barge arrives the last week of September; the next one doesn’t arrive until the first week of June. The only option for shipping when a delivery is delayed and the material has to get there is to send it by plane, says Moore.
He adds, “If you can’t deliver to them, it’s a huge problem. We hang our hat on the idea that we offer trusted service. If we say we’ll get it to you, we will.”
That belief that “we can do this,” no matter what the challenge, is a trait the owners share with their employees, many of whom have been with them for decades, a few as far back as 1978 when Chad Moore and his father Charlie founded the company in Seattle. They later moved Uresco’s headquarters to Kent and opened branches in Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska, from which the company supplies the whole state.
Top salesman Donnie Taylor started at Uresco 25 years ago, and he has customers that call him every year in March or April with a list of their needs. “It will be everything from rebar to a roof,” he says. He’s even shipped charcoal and cases of dog food. “I tell my customers, ‘Whatever you want, we’ll put it on the boat for you.’”
Ladd Moore joined the family business in 2009, and was immediately taken by the logistics. “I used to think we only sold 2x4s,” he marvels. “Because of the varied work we are called on to do in Alaska, we have a lot of really talented people up and down the line. We are used to building things in general, and things have to be creatively built and packaged for Alaska. It’s awfully nice to be able to say, ‘If you need something, we’ll get it done.’ It’s a challenge being able to have these customers for years and sustain these relationships.”
Sustaining those relationships sometimes means supplying an item outside the normal inventory. So when the city of Kotzebue’s public works department needed 600 96-gallon trash cans, it turned to Uresco. “We aren’t a retail operation at all,” Moore says, “but we love doing these types of things. There is really nothing that we haven’t shipped. The inside joke in the office is the list will be shorter of things we haven’t shipped than of those we have.”
In the early years, as the elder Moore was developing connections in Alaska, the story in the business “was my father going from community to community in bush planes and sleeping on pool tables,” says Moore. “My dad realized the best way to forge these relationships was face to face.”
Strengthening those connections with clients as well as maintaining relationships with the subs Uresco relies on to get materials to their final destination is a key part of its success in the Last Frontier. “We are great facilitators,” says Moore.
Today, company sales are divided pretty equally between the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. In the Pacific Northwest, Uresco supplies single- and multifamily builders. Booming sales in multifamily have led the company to more than double the size of its engineered wood department this year and move from a three- to a five-man operation.
Over the past 18 months, Uresco’s management team has developed strategic planning initiatives for the first time, implemented business management software, integrated GPS into dispatching, and begun the process of transitioning the business to the third generation, all major milestones in assuring the continuing success of the company over the coming years, says Moore.
“We want to grow thoughtfully. The goal is to continue to operate as a family company well into the future.”