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The Blue Book will begin offering its extensive credit-reporting services to the lumber and building materials industry after being selected from among a half-dozen candidates to fill a void created when a long-time credit agency for that industry ceased operations.

Since 1876, the lumber and building materials industry had relied on industry-specific credit information from an organization known as Lumbermens, according to Nicholas Kent, president and chief executive officer of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association, based in Rolling Meadows, IL.

"Our association members were essentially 'flying blind'" after Lumbermans ceased operations in late 2007, Mr. Kent said in a press release. "NAWLA leveraged its industry stature to find a replacement as quickly as possible."

In early 2008, the association's board formed a special task force comprised of top lumber industry credit and finance professionals, whose job was to vet credit information providers from other industries to provide the service to the lumber trade.

In seeking a new credit provider, the association wanted more accurate and timely information that had been available in the past, as members felt that they "did not have the information necessary to confidently make high-stakes credit decisions," according to the association's press release, which also stated that members were looking for information that was more technologically advanced.

After careful consideration, the task force concluded the best solution was available from Blue Book Services, the leading credit rating agency serving the wholesale fresh fruit and vegetable industry since 1901. The decision was announced to the lumber and building materials trade at the 2008 NAWLA Traders Market held in November in Chicago.

"Blue Book Services will offer the industry-specific, analyst-evaluated credit ratings NAWLA members expect in addition to a state-of-the-art information delivery platform," the press release stated.

"Our team worked hard to demonstrate our tried-and-true capabilities to the task force, and we are profoundly honored to have earned NAWLA's support," Jim Carr, president, chief executive officer and owner of Blue Book Services, said in a press release.

According to the NAWLA press release, "The primary driver behind The Blue Book's selection is their century-long track record of integrity and their ability to quickly adapt their rating systems and on-line program to the lumber industry's needs."

But while The Blue Book is branching out beyond its core fresh produce business, Jim Bartelson, executive vice president of The Blue Book assured its produce industry clients that they can expect the same high level of service that has been provided since 1901. "While grateful for the opportunity to now also serve the lumber industry, we certainly will not miss a step in fulfilling our century-long mission to provide the best credit information resources to the fresh produce industry," he said in the press release. "Our entire team -- from rating analysts to customer service specialists -- remains dedicated to delivering The Blue Book members the information, quality and timeliness they have come to expect."

"We work 'hand-in-glove' with the fresh produce trade, and the consistent result is accurate, timely, and reliable information upon which to make safe credit decisions," Mr. Carr added in the press release. "Input from NAWLA members and several industry firms at large makes us confident that a similar partnership with the lumber trade is already in the making."