Two years ago, Northern Kentucky builder Paul W. Hemmer Jr. considered running for Congress. But his young children and business obligations kept him from throwing his hat in the race.

Instead, he decided to focus his efforts on a project he's become impassioned about "” planting trees.

The 55-year-old developer has been the president of his own company for more than two decades, building scores of factories, stores, office buildings, and medical facilities.

But mention trees and Hemmer smiles. "It would be nice somehow if I could contribute significantly to the re-forestation of our community," he says. "I'm committed to it. I just need to find a way to make it happen."

Hemmer's crusade started in 1995 when he took his then 15-year-old dau-ghter Natalie on a tour of his projects. The land had been cleared for construction. "Dad, you can't cut all those trees down," she told him. "You have a good point," he answered.

His wife, Mary, agreed and encouraged him to do something. They started by planting State Forestry Service seedlings at Hemmer properties, but found those trees were too small and quickly overtaken by weeds.

The couple then bought a 210-acre farm on Route 8 in Hebron and started a nursery to grow the seedlings into small trees "” including oaks, maples, ashes, and sycamores. Now Hemmer Cos. plants trees that are 3- to 4-feet tall and about an inch thick. This allows the trees a much better chance at survival, notes Hemmer, a resident of Lakeside Park.

He's also introduced a program called "Freedom Trees" with the idea to plant a tree for every slave in America during the Civil War. Hemmer wants to build 10,000 groves with 400 trees each. He figures it will take longer than his lifetime and hopes his five children "” Adam, Natalie, Alex, Audrey, and Nora "” will carry on this mission.

David Koester, an extension agent in Campbell County, is familiar with Hem-mer's tree project. "It's really an interesting thing for a developer to take this on. It is great he's put his money and his profits into this."