Idaho Companies

Boise's BMC leaving for a jet plane

zkyle@idahostatesman.comMay 29, 2014 

0817 BI BMC

BMC walls and trusses make up this home under construction in 2011 in the SpurWing Greens development off Chinden Boulevard in Meridian.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman Buy Photo

Building materials and construction services company BMC, once part of Boise Cascade Corp., says it will keep a presence in Boise as it moves its top executives to Atlanta.

In part, the move is the latest example of Boise business leaders’ frustration with air service in a city 400 miles from its nearest midsize-city neighbor.

“Both management and the board were unanimous that BMC required a more central location with a larger population base, a large talent pool and fully accessible air travel,” CEO Peter Alexander said in a news release.

Alexander said BMC will relocate or create 150 corporate jobs in the Atlanta area over the next two years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Bill Connors, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the business community continues to seek more routes in and out of the city-run Boise Airport even though flights to San Diego, Salt Lake City, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles have been added since last fall.

“The chamber has spent a lot of time on air travel in the last year, and this is precisely why: because it’s important to companies,” Connors said.

Boise-based Franklin Building Supply sells against BMC in parts of Idaho and northern Utah. Franklin President Rick Lierz said he drives to locations in his company’s small distribution network, so the air-service problem doesn’t affect him as much as it does his larger competitor. But he said he’d consider moving if he had BMC’s 10-state footprint.

“When people are looking to move their company, Boise ends up on a short list with cities like Denver and Minneapolis,” Lierz said. “We lose those companies because it’s harder to get here.”

But Lierz differed with Alexander on Boise’s talent pool. He said finding qualified employees hasn’t been a problem.

“We find you can recruit people to Boise,” Lierz said. “That’s an issue that can be solved.”

BMC’s history

BMC said the move also would help the company expand its presence in the eastern United States, which is so far limited to a mill in Charlotte.

“The decision to establish headquarters in Atlanta was made after very careful consideration by the board,” Alexander said. “Atlanta was strategically chosen based on the fact that BMC is targeting additional growth beyond its current footprint.”

BMC traces its origins to the former Boise Cascade Corp.’s decision in 1987 to sell its struggling building-construction division, which included 20 stores in six Western states that sold mostly to contractors. Several managers borrowed money and bought the division for $44.6 million. They originally named the company BMC (Building Materials Centers) West.

For two decades, BMC grew and prospered, becoming one of the top 10 suppliers of construction materials and services nationwide. But when the housing market crashed in 2007, BMC was hit hard. Its revenues fell 27 percent in 2007 and continued falling afterward. The company had relied heavily on borrowing to finance growth, and it defaulted on more than $290 million owed to senior lenders.

BMC filed for bankruptcy in June 2009. It slashed services and properties. Employment fell to about 4,000 workers, roughly one-fifth of its peak. Sales continued falling in 2010 to $700 million.

But BMC emerged from bankruptcy in 2010 and soon began reducing its debt. It opened new centers in Dallas, Denver and Houston. Its employment now tops 5,000.

‘A nonevent’

The company has 111 locations in 10 states, including five in Idaho: the headquarters at 720 Park Blvd.; a store with a truss and panel plant at 11670 W. Franklin Road in Boise; a lumber and building materials store in Twin Falls; a sales office in Pocatello; and a truss plant in Idaho Falls.

The relocation will be done on a phased basis with the executive team moving immediately, BMC said. The Boise office will remain open.

Lierz said the building and construction materials industries won’t change unless BMC closes its Idaho stores.

“To us, it’s kind of a nonevent,” Lierz said. “They used to be headquartered in San Francisco, and that didn’t seem to matter.”

BMC did not return Statesman calls seeking comment.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464, Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle

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