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Jay Harper

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General Manager, Harper Lumber,  Buckhannon, 26

On his first paying job: 
Harper grew up working at the lumber yard.

"When I was a kid, that's the way it was. I liked to go to work. It was fun for me to go up and see the guys at work. These guys have seen me grow up from a little kid trying to run the forklift to being the one moving the company forward."

While most 6-year-old boys were playing with friends or watching cartoons, Jay Harper was hard at work making tomato stakes in his grandfather's lumber yard. Now, 20 years later, Harper is in charge of the Buckhannon location of Harper Lumber. 

As owner of a third-generation small business, Harper said his work ethic was instilled in him at a young age. It wasn't uncommon for him to go to work with his father.

"When I was a kid, that's the way it was," he said. "I liked to go to work. It was fun for me to go up and see the guys at work. These guys have seen me grow up from a little kid trying to run the forklift to being the one moving the company forward."

Although his father and grandfather owned the business, Harper started at the bottom. As a teen, he loaded and unloaded trucks and made deliveries before working his way up to salesman. All the while, the Buckhannon location kept growing.

"The winter between 2008 and 2009, we remodeled our Buckhannon location and tripled our interior," he said.

But Harper Lumber isn't exempt from the troubles and struggles other small businesses face. Harper said West Virginia is a "business-unfriendly state" and that makes it hard for businesses, especially small businesses, to succeed. That's part of the reason Harper is involved in Create Buckhannon, a subset of Create West Virginia.

"Instead of sitting around talking about things, we get things done," he said. 

Harper also just completed the 2011 class of Leadership West Virginia, where he had the opportunity to network with others in business.

"That was a phenomenal experience for me," Harper said. "That was the first exposure I've had to others in business. To see them and interact with them on a more social level was great for me."

Harper graduated Marshall University in 2001 with a degree in business. He is currently working on a master's of business administration degree from West Virginia Wesleyan.