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Concrete vs. wood: The campaign builds

Capitalizing on a recent run-up in lumber prices, the concrete industry is trying its best to become a real splinter in the side of wood producers.

The Portland Cement Association bought an eight-page spread in this month's Builder magazine, touting its product as a solution to high lumber prices and environmental concerns.

Earlier this year, the association bought a booth at a national home builders show, where builders could touch and feel its products while hearing about how great an alternative to wood they are.

"It's not really a big campaign . . . we're just engaging in some guerrilla promotion," said Dan Mistic, residential program manager for the Skokie, Ill.-based cement association.

The promotion could prove helpful to Florida. The state is the sixth-biggest producer of concrete products and the third-biggest consumer, according to the trade group. The bulk of all concrete products used in western Florida originate in limestone mines in Hernando, Citrus and neighboring counties.

Lumber prices hit record levels in March, fueled by environmental and weather problems in the Northwest and increased demand by busy home builders. Since then, prices have dropped more than 30 percent, but in the eyes of cement producers, it's still time to attack.

"This is only the beginning," Mistic said.