Supplying lumber for boats used to be a major source of business, but in the ’80s many builders converted to fiberglass as the chief product in creating vessels.
Also, the number of sawmills in New England has decreased, and in recent years managers have been seeking new sources from as far away as West Virginia.
A recession that started in 2008 also impacted the company.
“Business was down and we had to let people go,” said Keiver, who said the number of employees went from 70 to about 37. “That was one of the worst times I’ve ever had here, because we value our employees.
“We’ve hired some back and we’re up to about 45. Building is increasing, but we’re still cautious.”
Keiver, a native of Swampscott, went to North Carolina State University to study forestry. He left to join the military and returned to school after the service to study hardwood in a technical school in Memphis.
The veteran manager studied business at Northeastern University.
“Bob is a first-class guy and he runs a first-class business,” said Chris Costello, a hardwood retailer who recently opened Timberline Enterprises LLC on Low Street.
“When we moved to Newburyport, he and his team were there to help us get settled and down to business. He’s a real asset to our industry.”
Keiver, who has earned awards and lifetime achievement recognition from several national associations relating to wood products and lumber yards, indicated he thinks more about the business at hand than the prospect of retiring.
“I enjoy people, and I have found satisfaction in working with those in our industry,” Keiver said. “I have believed in providing a good product and being fair to employees and to customers. Being fair — that is important in any business.”