In 1955, Rodney Potter began working at Lewis Lumber Co. in Bradenton, Fla. He never left, even as the yard changed hands four times: to Wickes, Leeds, Hope, and now ProBuild. Now 72, he will be honored in August by the Florida Building Material Association. Potter frequently speaks at schools, telling the mainly minority student population about opportunities in LBM and noting that he went from earning 85 cents an hour to co-owning a yard. Here's his half-century perspective on life in LBM today:

Rodney Potter Photo: Carl Thome Changing Scenery. In the 1950s, Bradenton was a small town, consisting mostly of native-born Floridians. It was scarcely populated; rural areas had many small truck farms and there were quite a few large cattle ranchers–some consisting of 35,000 acres–along with very large dairy farms. Property that was once $100 an acre is now $20,000 an acre. A new three-bedroom house you could buy for $5,000 is now $200,000.

Multi-Tasking.I have four phones on my desk. I can talk on two phones and service a standing customer at the same time. I purchase materials, I sell, and I work in credit, I approve all refunds, and I approve all stock purchases while monitoring cost to maintain planned margins. I audit every sale every day, checking for discrepancies. I work in purchasing to help maintain adequate inventories and zero back-orders. I correspond with upper management. I prepare take-offs. I prepare contractor price lists for our major accounts. I lock up at night; I am the last one to leave.

Today's Generation.There are many willing, bright young workers today. Young people today have a better opportunity to learn technical skills before they are out in the work world. It is our responsibility to help identify what job is best fitted for the employees.

–Andy Carlo