Firm melds forestry with real estate

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Published: July 18,2005

Starkville — Forest and Wildlife Properties, LLC, represents a “marriage” on two levels. First, the company was formed by five experienced forestry consultants, who came together in an effort to pool their interests and resources. And second, the company has blended two practices — forestry consulting and real estate — into a thriving business.

Foresters Larry Autry, Steve Butler, Brad Campbell, Randy Rice and Lynn Prine (managing member) between them have nearly 150 years of professional experience and, by 2003, had known each other for years as members of the Mississippi Forestry Association and the Association of Consulting Foresters of America Inc. (ACF). They also had another thing in common — in addition to being registered foresters, they were also licensed real estate brokers.

“Invariably in my role as a forestry consultant, I had clients who had property they wanted to sell, or land they wanted to buy,” Campbell said. “So, I got my real estate license in order to assist my clients.

“All of us had known each other for years, and all of us held real estate licenses. So, we began talking about pooling our interests and working together, creating something like a multiple listing of timberland and recreational and agricultural land similar to those commonly offered by real estate firms.”

Experience and geographic reach

The members started discussing the joint venture in 2002, and Forest and Wildlife was formed in December 2003. In addition to their professional experience, the members were scattered across the state, and thus offered the new company a strong geographic spread. Autry’s L.L. Autry & Company is based in Etta in North Mississippi; Butler’s TimberCorp Inc. is located in Brandon in Central Mississippi; Campbell’s and Prine’s Southern Resource Service Inc. is in Starkville in East Mississippi; and, Rice’s Forest Owners Inc. is based in the Hattiesburg area in South Mississippi.

Forest and Wildlife’s clients run the gamut from individual buyers and sellers to large corporate concerns. Its listings also are varied. These included in late June everything from LLA Tallahatchie 5, which encompasses 745 acres of timberland and recreational land in Tallahatchie County in North Mississippi, to S-019-Attala, 20 acres of timberland/recreational land located in Attala County in Central Mississippi.

All of its June listings were located in Mississippi, and most of the company’s clients are Mississippi based or have business interests in the Magnolia State. But out-of-state inquiries continue to build. This has been facilitated by Forest and Wildlife’s Web site (www.forwildproperties.com), which has afforded the new company an even larger geographic scope and earned clients from all over the U.S. It also has facilitated the sharing of information, and the Web site offers a printable brochure-like listing of its properties.

An eye on expansion?

Due to the interest in Forest and Wildlife’s services from out-of-state concerns, the members are formulating plans to expand outside of Mississippi. The members envision a network of ACF-member foresters/real estate brokers on a regional, perhaps even national, level, who can serve as agents for both buyers and sellers. This would increase the number of potential clients for Mississippi properties and offer new channels for selling in-state land to entities in other states.

Campbell did not have a certain timeframe for the proposed expansion, but made it clear that even if the expansion does not occur, Forest and Wildlife has already been a big success.

“All the member offices have seen an increase in real estate activity since we started the business,” he said. “That is why we formed Forest and Wildlife Properties — to benefit the members. If we don’t go to the next level, our expectations have been met and exceeded already.”

And at heart? Foresters

Campbell also added that while all members hold a real estate license and Forest and Wildlife has proven successful in buying and selling state land, all are still foresters at heart. All members operate under the code of ethics of the ACF to ensure forestry is promoted and supported honestly and fairly. He said a large part of Forest and Wildlife’s mission is to be a positive and honest voice for the forestry industry, and to serve as educators of the industry. So, if the company does expand, the members want to ensure that other foresters/real estate brokers in the network hold the same credentials and ethics that they hold dear.

“We look at the number of property listings, how many we market and sell,” Campbell said of Forest and Wildlife’s measure of success. “We also look at client satisfaction — whether we’ve represented them well. And we also look to see if we have increased the understanding of the forestry industry. That’s a very important arm of what we do, because we are first and foremost forestry consultants.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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