“We’re doing a $1.5 million R&D Center for outdoor products, including our tree stands,” John Waller, who started Summit Tree Stands in Decatur, AL (population 53,929) 25 years ago, was telling me about their recent announcement. “I was a hunter and couldn’t find anything that gave me the comfort, support or camouflaging that I wanted. I was working for another company in their engineering department, but worked on designing and selling my units on the weekends. It was just my wife and I doing everything.”
Today Summit Tree Stands sells 70,000 to 90,000 stands per year, producing a superior product through advanced manufacturing technology. Waller told me, “We have been able to maintain a cost advantage when you compare us to foreign competition from China because of automation.”
One of the major trends that I’m following is the growth of interest in recreational land. The changes that are occurring in this industry driven by aging baby boomers are exciting for rural America. Seeing companies like Summit making an investment in R&D that is aimed squarely at this demographic change is another sign of what lies ahead.