One of the most recognizable man-made landmarks you can see for miles around Huntsville, Ala., isn’t a church steeple or skyscraper. It’s a test version of the space shuttle, one of the crown jewels of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s outdoor museum of famous rockets. The shuttle lifts off at a crawl but ultimately goes wicked fast: Its top speed hits 17,500 mph.
You get the same feeling of velocity when you drive 8 miles northwest and visit Wilson Lumber. The company has been a fixture in Huntsville since 1949, a year before Wernher von Braun arrived to spearhead the nation’s aerospace program and earn Huntsville the nickname Rocket City.
Like the early space program, Wilson Lumber was a big vehicle that couldn’t deliver very much payload. For several years this decade, revenues barely moved.
“Three years ago, we were still in hunker-down mode,” COO John B. Marshall says. “Then we looked up and said, ‘Let’s go get it.'”