For more than a century, the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA) has left large footprints in the sands of time. SFPA’s long history of achievements in promoting the Southern Pine industry, its membership and the products they produce form a proud heritage.

Founded in 1915 as the Southern Pine Association, this nonprofit trade association of Southern Pine lumber manufacturers changed its name in 1970, but not its purpose. The word “Service” was inscribed in the seal of the original Southern Pine Association, and “Service” remains the organization’s simple motto to this day.

That service has taken various forms throughout the decades: marketing, quality control, rules writing, forestry, government affairs, safety, transportation and a machinery exposition. It has helped establish Southern Pine’s reputation as a preferred building material with the longest track record of quality construction in the nation.

In 1915, the specter of a timber famine hung over Southern forests. The association, whose founders were among the “fathers of forestry,” initiated the practice of forest management in the South. These pioneers, at first ridiculed for what was perceived as naive efforts, slowly led the Southern lumber industry to renewed vigor.

The association also crusaded for quality in its members’ products.

In 1924, the association became the first organization of lumber manufacturers to officially adopt grade-marking. Another first came in 1929, when the association incorporated within grading rules maximum moisture content limits for framing lumber and similar items.

TIMELINE: “SFPA Through the Years”
LEGENDARY LEADERS of the Association – 1915 – 2017
EARLY ADVERTISEMENTS of the Southern Pine Association

The association’s early success came under the scrutiny of the U.S. Government. In February of 1940, a federally mandated consent decree divided the association’s quality-control and rules-writing activities from the product-promotion programs, creating the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau. SPIB functioned as a separate entity and moved its offices to Pensacola, Florida, in 1969. In September of 1996, the consent decree was dissolved by the government following a successful legal challenge by SFPA. The courts decided the decree had no further legal merit.

A further boost to growing Southern Pine timber came in 1942, when the association introduced the Tree Farm programs to the South, encouraging private landowners to grow, harvest and replant trees as they would any other crop. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the association championed the industry’s initiative to grow America’s “Third Forest,” supporting extensive forest management programs and reforestation efforts to assure the nation’s future timber supply.

The association served the nation in both war and peace. In 1942, the association was given the top award of the American Trade Association Executives for “outstanding contribution by U.S. industry to the World War II military effort.”

Shortly after the war, which strained industry resources to the limit, the association launched a campaign to stimulate greater mechanical efficiency to assure the industry’s high standards. This led to the first forest products machinery and equipment exposition (EXPO) in 1950.

In 1970, the Southern Pine Association changed its name to the Southern Forest Products Association in response to changing needs of its members and to project a broader image of its activities.

Challenged by the recession of 1981-82, SFPA sought to broaden its marketing prowess to boost demand for members’ products. Following extensive research by a Select Panel of members, the first of two five-year Marketing Marathons was launched in 1985. Trade advertising, consumer promotions and cooperative activities with other wood products organizations contributed to the programs’ success. Annual production grew by nearly 50%, from 10.49 billion board feet (1985) to 15.01 billion board feet (1994).

But the mid-1990s offered even greater challenges with competition from alternative building materials – steel, concrete, even plastic! The focus of marketing Southern Pine shifted from boosting demand to maintaining market share and exploring new, value-added opportunities. The new millennium was on the horizon. SFPA met the challenge with its landmark VISION 2000 program, taking the industry to the threshold of the 21st Century.

Today, SFPA is building momentum and demand for Southern Pine products with product promotions focused on structural, treated and specialty/industrial lumber applications.

Annual production of Southern Pine lumber reached a modern-era record of 19 billion board feet in 2005. SFPA continues to serve as an information clearinghouse to design/build professionals, providing technical guides and references, and authoritative online content. SFPA remains at the forefront of promoting members’ products around the globe.