ARTICLE AND PHOTOS
BY DAVID BLANCHETTE
It’s been a long, strange trip for LS Building Products, but the East Peoria-based wholesale distributor will soon open its largest facility, an 80,000-square-foot, full-service operation near the I-55 and Sangamon Avenue exit in Springfield.
The LS Building Products Springfield operation will open in early August following two years of planning, negotiation and weather delays. The building will feature a huge, drive-through contractor loading area, a fleet of delivery trucks and a showroom with partially constructed house sections where homeowners can see what the firm’s products look like when installed.
“We will be showing a lot of the things that homeowners can’t normally see,” said Troy Reed, president of LS Building Products. “There will be all sorts of interior products, cabinets, Andersen and Marvin windows, and all of the trim stuff. Homeowners will be able to come down here to see and pick out the materials that are actually going into their home projects.”
LS Building Products carries dimensional and engineered lumber, including trusses and wall panels; all types of siding; interior doors and millwork; stair parts; vinyl and aluminum fence and railings; roofing products; cabinets; and new and replacement vinyl and wood windows. The business will mainly serve residential and light commercial contractors, but its 3,500-square-foot showroom and on-staff designers will help homeowners with their own construction and renovation projects.
The Springfield facility at 3441 Lumber Ln., just behind the Road Ranger Truck Stop off of Camp Butler Road, will be LS Building Products’ eighth location. System-wide, the firm employs 190 people, and they will start with 14 employees in Springfield with plans to increase that figure to 35 to 40 employees in the next five years, Reed said.
Ten of the employees will come from the firm’s Virden operation, the former Garretson Lumber Company, which has made trusses for LS Building Products since 2016 and is being moved to the new Springfield location.
“It will be a full-service kind of a one-stop shop,” Reed said. “We will have drivers making deliveries within a 50 to 75 mile radius, warehouse personnel, sales people, tech designers, management, customer service and draft people designing homes and room additions.”
“We do well in the Peoria, Bloomington and Champaign markets and we feel it is an obvious next step to be in the Springfield area,” Reed said. “The construction market in Illinois in general is not going very well, but about 50% of our business is remodeling, so people who aren’t building new are remodeling homes. Since we supply both new construction and remodeling, we don’t have those heavy- duty downturns in our business.”
The LS Building Products’ Springfield location has been in the works for two years. Reed determined that constructing a new building with the square footage they required would not be cost effective, so the company looked at existing structures and found what they felt was a good location on Springfield’s northeast side. The building was several decades old and had been vacant for a number of years, but it had solid infrastructure and good access.
LS Building Products made an offer on the building and approached the City of Springfield about creating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to help offset the cost to renovate the structure. The Springfield City Council agreed and created a targeted TIF district specifically for the company. All seemed to be going well, until a problem familiar to the Springfield area cropped up.
“At the eleventh hour of closing on the building, we found that we had mine subsidence there,” Reed said. “So we took our offer off the table and went looking for another building.”
Reed conducted a thorough search but eventually realized that the first choice of location was still the best.
“We circled back to this building, and we are hoping that the mine subsidence event is over,” Reed said. “So we had to start the process all over again. We re-did an offer, got accepted again, got going though the building permit process, fought some wet weather delays, and here we are now.”
The company paid just under $700,000 to buy the building and property and is spending another $2.4 million in renovations, Reed said. He estimated that the TIF district designation will mean just under $1.5 million to the company in recaptured property taxes over the district’s 23-year life span.
Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development TIF manager Abby Powell worked closely with LS Building Products over the past two years and helped them to secure the TIF designation.
“We created this TIF specifically to attract them and help to incentivize the business,” Powell said. “They are a unique industry, and they are going to bring some jobs and also fill a vacant building for us.”
Powell said this particular TIF is unusual because it is for just one parcel of land, but she feels the end result will be worth it.
“The whole idea of TIF is that except for the incentive the development wouldn’t have happened,” Powell said. “We have seen decreased property values in this area, which has been hurtful to the other taxing districts and to the city. We are not impacting the established base property tax; the increase in the property tax goes back to this developer and we know that the sales tax they generate and the jobs that they create will be a positive economic benefit to the city.”
Mark Kamphaus worked for James Hardie Building Products, and LS Building Products was a long-standing customer of his. Kamphaus liked the way that LS did business, so when he was offered the manager’s job for the new Springfield location, he jumped at the opportunity.
“What excites me the most about this is the funding that they are putting into it, and what they are giving us to work with, and the growth potential that comes with that,” Kamphaus said. “These guys are willing to do whatever it takes to grow a territory and throw resources at it, so that’s exciting for me.”
Kamphaus said that LS Building Products’ hours of operation will be weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with special arrangements for pickup or delivery during off hours. The company has a strong contractor client base, and Kamphaus hopes the Springfield showroom will increase the private homeowner side of the business as well.
“They will be able to see the interiors, the different door profiles, the trim and different sidings and windows,” Kamphaus said. “But beyond that, it gives our salesmen a little space to sit down with builders or homeowners and go through their plan and go through product by product and actually see it on the wall, as opposed to just looking at a sample in your hand.”
“I think the bigger picture is they’re going to see a company that is really willing to take care of them from start to finish and back what we are selling them,” Kamphaus said.