Monday, May 17, 2010

Western Pennsylvania SBA Exporter of the Year Awarded in Southwest District

News Release


Release Date: May 10, 2010 Contact: Janet Heyl (412) 395-6560, ext. 103

Release Number: 10-12/PGH

Local forestry company president logs in win as Western Pennsylvania SBA Exporter of the Year Award

BEDFORD, PA – When Thomas Mereen was in college, he swapped his chemical engineering classes for economics. “I hated engineering, I got good grades, but it just didn’t excite me,” he stated. “But I loved macroeconomics…I wanted to trade goods all around the world.”

Fast-forward a few decades, and Mereen has been able to do just that. He combined his love of the outdoors with microeconomics as log buyer and president of Bedford Forest Products – a Pennsylvania log purchasing company.

Mereen will be honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the 2010 Western Pennsylvania Exporter of the Year.

Mereen and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be lauded at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 28th Awards Luncheon which will be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh. The luncheon is held in conjunction with the 47th annual celebration of National Small Business Week.

Twenty-three years ago, Mereen arrived in Bedford by way of Syracuse, N.Y., with a working knowledge of lumber and milling. He honed his hardwood expertise working at a handful of lumber and veneer mills. When he suddenly found himself unemployed five years ago, Mereen decided to contact a veneer company and offer to purchase wood on commission for their products. In fact, Mereen found there indeed was a market for his forest facts. He began his business by purchasing trees for both small and large wood-product manufacturers.

“I buy the standing trees here and send them to China, I’ve also sent logs to Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Spain, Germany and France,” he explained. “I spend time in the woods here physically looking for pieces of wood my customers want while maintaining total quality control.”

In addition to personally purchasing trees for his clients, Mereen set out to pioneer the milling process for his remote clients. To ensure quality, Mereen remains on-site at a local saw mill where the purchased trees are cut to the customer specifications. “I do this so we can focus on our clients’ needs and expectations,” he explained. “My total customer service allows them to remain competitive in this very challenging world-wide market.”



Once cut, the fresh lumber is put back together and shipped worldwide. His customers then make wood products and, in turn, export those items around the world.

Mereen said he believes embracing today’s technology has enabled him to not only send and receive orders from around the world, but, also to become paperless. He’s reduced overhead costs associated with inventory equipment – a savings he passes along to his customers.

“Technology allows me to travel about 185 miles each day to personally purchase trees for each customer,” he said.

Mereen said he’s always looking for multiple streams of income. “For instance, I purchase hickory for a gentleman in Germany and have it cut for him; he then makes axe handles out of the hickory.” But one forest project took Mereen by surprise and this year he plans to dabble in the arena of high-end custom furniture.

“I never thought I would end up selling furniture, but I went to see how this furniture in Italy is made and it is beautiful – especially the quality and finishing,” Mereen said. “I plan to have a virtual store and market the furniture to designers and architects all over the world.”

Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, said that Mereen’s log purchasing enterprise shows niche businesses can be cost-effective and allow for tremendous growth. “Mills have closed and he’s using his knowledge to purchase for specialty areas like veneer and axe handles,” Knoblock stated. “He’s also not afraid to branch out and look into other avenues, because there is a huge market for solid-wood furniture. You just need to buy it in bulk and take it globally.”

Meree, maintains he has a passion for small business.

“This award truly is an honor and I’m proud to be the recipient.”

Note: If you would like to speak with Tom Mereen or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103

The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.


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