Senator Plummer: Part-Time Businessman, Part-Time Legislator
EDWARDSVILLE, IL – Illinois Senator Jason Plummer is a busy man.
Besides being a husband and father, the 40-year-old represents to the Illinois Senate, the 11-county 55th Legislative District, which includes Edwardsville, Illinois. Edwardsville is where R.P. Lumber – the business his father and mother started in 1977 – is based.
Senator Plummer serves as vice-president of R.P. Lumber,
which has over eighty locations throughout Illinois and four other states. The family’s business has expanded over the past 46 years to include the real estate, banking, hospitality, agriculture and manufacturing industries.
They’ve been involved in manufacturing for 15 years, Senator Plummer told TMA News Bulletin.
“In addition to the buying and selling of commodity products and lumber, drywall, shingles and hard lines, we’re full service hardware stores,” he said. “We manufacture building components, so things like trusses or wall panels that go into new construction and significant remodels, both residential and commercial.
“We’ve been manufacturing for about 15 years out of the facility in the Springfield area and then we expanded in 2021 with the facility up near Chicago, in the DeKalb area. That effectively doubled our capacity,” he said.
Supply Chain issues lead to business expansion
Plummer said growing supply chain issues caused R.P. Lumber to investigate manufacturing the products that were in demand. When existing vendors began struggling to keep up with R.P. Lumber’s customers’ needs, the Plummers saw challenges on the horizon that were likely to negatively affect their customers. That’s when they decided to “fill the gap” and buy an existing company that manufactured badly-needed building trusses.
“We still work with a lot of other building component manufacturers throughout Illinois and Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and elsewhere,” he said. “But we use U.S. Truss to basically ensure timeliness and cost effectiveness, when we’re trying to compete in the lumberyard business with our diverse customer base.”
For the Plummers, the decision to expand into product manufacturing was rooted in the family’s determination to be trustworthy with their customers.
“We really needed to ensure that when we made a commitment to a customer on the lumberyard side -whether that was pricing or that was timing, and whether we could deliver on that,” he said. “The manufacturing side really is there to make sure that our lumber yards are comfortable making commitments to customers, that we’re not dependent on a third party to make sure we fulfill our end of an obligation.”
Senator’s business background affects public policy
Senator Plummer’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was followed by time spent as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. These life experiences and training prepared him to be elected as an Illinois senator for the first time in 2018.
The senator was named as Assistant Republican Leader for the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus Leadership Team for the 102nd General Assembly, beginning in 2021, and again for the 103rd General Assembly, beginning in 2023.
He serves as the Minority Spokesperson for the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, as well Minority Spokesperson for the Executive Appointments Committee. In addition, he now serves as a member of the Health & Human Services, Human Rights, and Labor Committees.
TMA News asked Senator Plummer if his experience in the retail and manufacturing industries has any impact on how he views economic policy as a lawmaker.
“100%,” he said. “100%.” “If you look at the Senate Chamber, a handful of us have real jobs outside of being legislators. And of those that have real jobs going to work every day, working with people on real economy stuff, there are only three or four people in the whole Senate chamber that are in that type of business,” Plummer said.
Working outside of the General Assembly, and owning and operating businesses cause Plummer to see things from a different viewpoint, he said.
“You have to bring these perspectives with you and you have to understand the ramifications of the decisions you make. And I feel it every day – whether it’s the need for workers comp reform, the need for tort reform, the impact of just too much regulation, too much taxation,” he said.
He then pointed to a specific situation that drove the point home that R.P. Lumber had just experienced.
“A major manufacturer with which we do a tremendous amount of business wanted to put a facility in the Midwest to support RP Lumber. They wanted a place to build in south central Illinois,” he said. “They ended up putting the facility just across the river … in Missouri.”
And why? Because of Illinois’ antagonistic attitudes and policies towards business involving burdensome regulations, taxation, and need for extensive workers comp and tort reform, he said.
“That is a real-world example,” Plummer said. “There are over 300 people working at that manufacturing facility today. And they are working in Missouri.”
Plummer co-leads TMA’s SaMM Caucus
And while Senator Plummer is a busy man – selling lumber, manufacturing trusses, banking, managing a young family, legislating, politicking – he has agreed to co-chair the Technology & Manufacturing Association’s newly-formed Small and Midsized Manufacturing Caucus in the Illinois General Assembly.
At this time, 43 both Democrat and Republican members of the Illinois General Assembly have agreed to participate in the caucus to be fully informed about how small and midsized manufacturers view legislation and public policy that is making its way through the Capitol.
State Representative Tim Ozinga, whose family owns and operates Ozinga, will co-chair the SaMM Caucus with Senator Plummer this year.
Plummer told TMA members in December 2022 that the SaMM Caucus’ presence in Springfield was crucial.
“I think we have to have organizations like this to combat a really difficult environment. Unfortunately, it’s a tough environment. We have our work cut out for us,” Plummer said.
But Plummer remains hopeful that there will be positive changes in Illinois in the days ahead. He points to Illinois’ exceptional natural resources and its rich workforce as two reasons to be optimistic.
“We have a great state full of assets and opportunity,” he said. “There won’t be a short term solution, it will be a long term solution. We are tremendously blessed as a state. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just need to fix the policy.”
“Groups like TMA will be a crucial component in making that change,” he said.
At that point, the busy Senator Plummer turned to the next demanding task on his daily agenda.
For more information, check out www.RPLumber.com. Corporate office 514 Vandalia Street, Edwardsville, IL 62025
From TMA News Bulletin, March/April 2023. By Fran Eaton, TMA News Bulletin editor/writer.