SANDPOINT - National business and political leaders acknowledged a top Idaho company Wednesday when Idaho Forest Group was named as the inaugural recipient of the Zions Bank Idaho Pacesetter Award.
The award, presented during the Gem State's first Governor's Trade and Business Conference at the Boise Centre, marked the capstone of a global trade conference which included Massachusetts governor and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney; Hewlett-Packard chairman, president and CEO, Meg Whitman; and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter among the notables in attendance.
"The award honors a Gem State company for its success, growth, leadership and contribution to the state's economic vitality," Zions Bank said in a statement. "Idaho Forest Group exemplifies the can-do attitude of business leaders across Idaho, and is poised to accelerate into the future. We applaud the leadership of Marc Brinkmeyer and Scott Atkison, who have grown Idaho Forest Group into one of the largest lumber producers in the nation and fueled job creation in northern Idaho."
"Our company is a vibrant and thriving business enterprise," said Idaho Forest Group President Scott Atkison. "We are large enough to compete successfully in national and international markets, yet small enough to know who we are, how we got started and what an extraordinary effort it has taken - on the parts of many talented people - to get us to where we are today."
The Idaho Forest Group was formed in 2008 from the merger of two family owned companies: Riley Creek Lumber and Bennett Forest Industries. Based in Coeur d'Alene, the company operates state-of-the-art sawmills in Laclede, Moyie Springs, Chilco, Grangeville and Lewiston and now ranks as one of the Top 10 lumber manufacturers in the U.S.
In his acceptance remarks, Atkison underscored IFG's strong commitment to sustainable forestry, describing it as "a social contract with every man, woman and child in our country."
He also stressed the importance of the bond IFG has with its employees, contractors, customers and the communities it calls home.
"Hometown ethics and belief in doing the job right are foundational to our company," the president said. "The physical assets of our business are easy to build or replace. However, the intangibles of employee loyalty, commitment to quality, and customer satisfaction from a job well done give us confidence and inspire us to improve."
Atkison described Idaho Forest Group as "a closely held, family-owned, Idaho-grown business."
Interviewed from abroad, Marc Brinkmeyer, the company's chairman, echoed those sentiments.
"That's important to us," he said, "because we're a family company with very strong family values. That's what drives us every day."
The global trade conference was held at a time when companies in the Intermountain West are expanding their overseas business. In the 10-year period from 2003-2013, Idaho exports have almost tripled - from $2 billion to $5.7 billion, according to the Idaho Department of Commerce. Of the 1,757 companies which exported from Idaho in 2012, 83.3 percent were small- to medium-sized businesses and generated 25 percent of the Gem State's total merchandise exports, according the latest available data from the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.
In IFG's case, exporting represented a vehicle for emerging as a stronger company following the economic downturn, as the company expanded into new markets in China and Japan with the help of the Idaho Department of Commerce.
Also honored at Wednesday's event was Boise firm Agri Beef Co., which was presented with the Idaho Global Pacesetter Award to acknowledge its success in exporting product.