Why The Hardwood Lumber Industry Is Great!

I had the opportunity last week to spend a few days working with two of our newer employees. Both of these individuals are new to the hardwood lumber industry.  During one of our long car rides between a few different sawmills we starting talking about the industry and what they found interesting.

Hardwood Lumber IndustryI was struck by some of their answers but more importantly I was pleased that in general they stated the same topline reasons on what they liked about working in the industry.  In summary this is what they said.

Sustainability – Many times those on the outside of the industry are not familiar with the fact that the North American hardwood forests are growing, abundant and self-generating.  Recent reports indicated that there is twice as much new growth than what is being harvested for timber.  And since the industry uses selective timber harvesting techniques, which means only the mature, overcrowded, diseased, dying and poorly formed trees are cut for timber, the forests will continue to thrive. 

People are also very interested in the fact that every aspect of the log is used and none of it is wasted.  After a mill saws logs into the boards they desire even the by-products created such as lumber chips, the tree bark and sawdust are then many times used for energy or agricultural needs.

Global – The North American hardwood lumber business is a global industry.  Manufacturers of furniture, cabinets, flooring and specialty items like drum sticks and guitars all across the world look for North American hardwood lumber as the preferred raw material to make their products.  Black walnut, white oak, red oak, tulipwood and cherry are regularly ordered and shipped to companies throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia which means global trade opportunities exist for many within the industry.  Travel, international logistics, global financing and different cultural experiences are very appealing characteristics to many new entrants to the business world and a point we sometimes forget to emphasize.

Challenge & Complexity – When you combine the different growing regions, species, grades, thicknesses, sorts, characteristics and sawing techniques the industry can be very complex. From 4/4 rift and quartered FAS white oak with figure to 8/4 white 1 face poplar prime, it seems there could be hundreds of product variations a person must be knowledgeable about and that is very appealing.  Then, when you add in the different participants in the typical hardwood lumber supply chain which includes companies such as land owners, foresters, loggers and logistic firms, and their increasing adoption and use of new technologies, the hardwood lumber industry can certainly be a challenging and rewarding industry to be a part of.

People – Both of the people I was speaking with commented on how much they enjoyed interacting with the people they were meeting.  Comments such as honest, loyal, dedicated, intelligent, reputable, hardworking and down to earth seemed to be some of the first characteristics they used to describe the people in the hardwood lumber industry. They described the people they meet as people who wake up each day and prepare for the opportunity to perfect the craft they love and genuinely care for, (I couldn’t agree more!)

Opportunity – Lastly, they described the industry as one with tremendous opportunity.  They envision areas of growth that will be spawn from leveraging technological advancement, expanding markets, and improving efficiencies which excited them.

From my perspective it is good to know that for the right person, the hardwood lumber industry is appealing. It also has a great sense of purpose if you look at it from the point of utilizing the earths raw materials to better people’s lives.  Which reminds me of a quote our President used in the past.

"In the hardwood lumber industry, we can think of what we do as cutting logs and processing boards, or instead we can see our work as rearranging the raw materials of creation (trees) into useful products (chairs, tables, cabinets, floors) that help people to live better and more productively. For me, viewing our work as rearranging creation's raw materials is more motivating and inspiring, and brings dignity and meaning to all kinds of work."  -- Jeff Meyer

Tony Cimorelli
The Baillie Group
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Tony C.
The Baillie Group
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