"We are very proud to be working with wood and producing products that are grown and manufactured in Maine, and are also good for the environment."
As the son of David Hancock '64 and part of the family that has run Hancock Lumber since its inception in 1848, Kevin Hancock '88 never once considered joining the family business during his years at Bowdoin. His interests focused on a different kind of wood — the hardwood of collegiate basketball courts.
After graduating from Bowdoin, Hancock was named head boy's basketball coach at Bridgton Academy. He spent three years at Bridgton, where he enjoyed a great deal of success, and was contemplating a move to Illinois State as a Division I assistant.
"I reached a point where it was time to grow and the chance to coach at Illinois State was a good one," said Hancock. "Considering that move put me face to face with the reality of what I would have to do and sacrifice to be a Division I college coach. I really didn't want to leave Maine and decided to attend law school."
In the summer of 1991, less than two weeks away from starting law school at the University of Maine, David was diagnosed with cancer. At that point, Kevin began to rethink his decision to attend law school and decided to join the family business. He started at the front counter of the store in Yarmouth and moved up the ladder over the next few years, assuming the role of president in 1998.
Growing up as the sixth generation of family members involved in one of southern Maine's most successful businesses was not a stifling experience for Kevin or his brother, Matt. Instead, they received support from their parents to explore other interests and develop an identity separate from the lumber business.
"My parents went out of their way to make it known that it was OK not to work in the family business," said Kevin. "Because of that, I feel like I ended up here for all the right reasons."
Hancock Lumber continues to thrive as the climate changes for lumber companies. Kevin oversees two primary aspects of the business, one of which involves three sawmills that make Hancock the largest manufacturer of Eastern White Pine in North America. The second is a retail operation that includes stores in 11 Maine communities, including Brunswick.
With the rise of mass retailers and the evolving global marketplace as Hancock's primary challenges recently, the company has grown and developed. Using the same principles that guided the company at its inception over 150 years ago, Hancock continues to thrive in the southern Maine and Midcoast regions.
"We are competing in so much more of a global marketplace now than ever before," said Kevin. "We are competing with lumber from sawmills all over the United States and countries such as Russia, Chile, New Zealand, and Canada.
"The rise of mass retailers such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's created the need to evolve, as a company, with these new realities. At the same time, it also reinforced the principles that make our company and our brand unique in the state of Maine."
Kevin points to three things that have allowed Hancock to remain competitive in today's world. First, continuing to hire good people who are committed to the company and its mission has created an unrivaled customer-friendly atmosphere. Second, Hancock Lumber has moved beyond its traditional role by adding more value and new services to its products. Hancock now employs drafting experts in its retail stores, has installation services for its products, and offers construction financing through its company. Third, and probably most important, is the continuing commitment to the Hancock "brand" as a locally owned, family-company dedicated to serving its customers.
"We have become a one-stop spectrum of services for people in order to compete in the current marketplace," said Kevin. "Beyond that we are built to last as a company with a long-standing commitment to our business and our customers. People know that whenever they do business with Hancock Lumber, they will be able to come back to us in 10 or 15 years and we'll still be here for them, offering the same services and value we always have."
In addition to its retail business and sawmill operation, Hancock Land Company, Hancock Lumber's sister company, owns more than 40,000 acres of timberland throughout southern and western Maine, which it harvests for Eastern White Pine. It also provides consulting services to other companies planning timber harvests and looking to conduct forestry activity. This involvement means that Hancock Lumber is not only a service-oriented company, but a powerful steward of the environment in Maine.
"We are very serious about our role as caretakers," said Kevin. "We protect the environment in many ways by simply staying in business and thoughtfully using the land we own.
"We are also very proud to be working with wood and producing products that are grown and manufactured in Maine and also good for the environment. Wood is actually the most renewable resource on the planet and the best thing we do for the environment is use it for building instead of materials such as concrete, plastic, aluminum, and steel."
Kevin's success as president of Hancock Lumber might have some genetic origins, but he is also quick to credit his Bowdoin education and the role it has played in allowing him to succeed in his current position.
"What Bowdoin does so well is create graduates who are self-aware and focused on what they want their contributions to the world to be. I have no professional regrets and a lot of that has to do with the self-awareness I developed as a student at Bowdoin."
As a product of a public school in a small town in Maine, Kevin appreciates the opportunity to meet and learn with students from all over the world who brought different perspectives to their Bowdoin experience. He learned, above all else, that being from Maine was not a disadvantage and the success he enjoyed at Bowdoin - both as a student and basketball player — gave him the confidence he needed to be successful in his position at Hancock Lumber.
Today, Kevin makes his way to Brunswick often and frequently finds himself on campus to watch a women's basketball game with his daughters, Abby and Sydney. "Like most Bowdoin graduates who are ambitious and driven, life gets busy but I think the bond you develop with Bowdoin is always with you, no matter how often you return or what you are involved in. It becomes a life-long love affair," said Kevin.
Bowdoin's impact on Kevin's life is evident. A commitment to Maine and serving its residents have long been important precepts for Bowdoin College and Hancock Lumber, and those principles will continue to be the driving force behind their respective successes.