Senator Hwang: The Lumber Business is a Bellwether for the Economy

Senator Tony Hwang recently visited constituents and business owners Sheldon and Ben Kahan, a father-son team who operate one of the largest lumber yards in Connecticut ­– Interstate + Lakeland Lumber, a family-run business established in 1922.

Interstate + Lakeland’s true strength and competitive advantage lie in its location. With its Newtown yard adjacent and connected to the Housatonic Railroad, and a short drive from I-84, I+L’s Newtown location became a perfect hub for the distribution arm of the company.

Sheldon Kahan, grandson of founder Leon Kahan, began his career as an architect who wanted to remake the way we make buildings. After securing a job at an architecture firm, Sheldon decided he wanted to explore taking part in the family business. After 6 months of working sales for his family’s company he never looked back, and has expanded the business to more than just a lumber yard to include retail and state-wide distribution. “We do everything to do with a house now. We sell wood for your framing, we sell doors, windows, hardware, siding, trim...anything you would need to build a home.”

In addition to expanding the business, Sheldon has been modernizing. Investing in new computer systems and technology, he is bringing his business into the 21st century so I+L can continue to provide the best possible service for area contractors, homeowners, and larger construction projects. And with his son, Ben, joining Sheldon as their new Marketing Director, I+L is ready to take on the modern world with an increased presence online and on social media. Ben is even working towards evolving the way professionals and individuals interact with their business, as he envisions a mobile app for ordering materials and other products directly from your cell phone.

“I’m here to get to learn and understand their business so that my colleagues and I, as policymakers and representatives for Newtown, can understand the challenges they are facing so our decisions are informed by the people we represent,” said Hwang. “Furthermore, the lumber and home improvement business is a bellwether for the economy. If people are building and renovating, it is a sign that people are confident which means we are headed in the right direction. And if the lumber business is struggling, we need to make some changes to stimulate our economy.”

Unfortunately, as has been seen throughout Connecticut, Interstate + Lakeland has only been able to recover a small number of the jobs lost in the 2008 Recession. Before 2008, I+L employed over two hundred people. Now, they employ 138 and despite having space to expand and hire more employees, the Kahans are reluctant to do so without more confidence in Connecticut’s economy. “We need to make our state more business friendly, so that places like Interstate + Lakeland can expand, and more housing and businesses can be built. A state with better fiscal responsibility inspires local businesses to invest, which will grow the economy and create jobs,” said Hwang.

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