Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of going on a little road trip with NAWLA Chairman Jim McGinnis through Georgia and Alabama. This is the second such trip that Jim and I have made together, last year Jim and I toured through southwest Alabama and Mississippi. One of Jim’s goals during his term as Chairman has been to expand NAWLA’s presence in the south. There is no better way to do this than to gas up Jim’s Chevy and hit the road. All told, over three days we traversed around 1,500 miles together, met with some great folks, and had a lot of fun in the process.
Personally, as Executive Director of NAWLA I love escaping the concrete jungle that is Chicago to get out and visit with NAWLA members and prospects. It’s by far the favorite part of my role. Prior to stepping into this position, I had no lumber background. In over 3 ½ years as Executive Director I’ve made it a point to get out and see as many members as possible and it’s been a gratifying experience, and dramatically helped with my education. I continue to be amazed at all of the wonderful people, diverse businesses, unique business models, and niches that I come across in our industry.
Jim drove over from Meridian, Mississippi - his hometown and home of The McGinnis Lumber Company, a fourth generation lumber wholesaler. Jim met me in Atlanta and we started off by visiting longtime NAWLA member Interfor in Peachtree City, Georgia. We were able to share some time with Donna Whitaker (NAWLA Board Member) and Greg Fitz and were grateful for the hospitality. From there we headed out to Wrens, Georgia – on the eastern side of the state. We visited Lamb Brothers Lumber Company, which is a family run hardwood mill. From there we headed back west to Barnesville, Georgia and the home of Jordan Lumber, a Southern Yellow Pine mill and NAWLA member. They had a very impressive operation. Jim and I called it a night in Macon.
The next morning, we woke up early and headed out to Thompson Hardwoods, and Beasley Forest Products, sister companies that comprise a very large hardwood operation in Hazelhurst, GA. Then we visited Norbord’s OSB mill in Cordele, Georgia. This was my first time in an OSB mill. I was blown away by the process, and efficiency of a large scale OSB operation. Moving on, we headed south to visit NAWLA member Universal Forest Products’ re-man operation in Moultrie, Georgia. We were grateful for time that Steve Simpson, GM of their Moultrie plant took with us to show us around. We wrapped up our second day by enjoying a wonderful dinner in Dothan, Alabama hosted by the folks at Wholesale Wood Products (NAWLA member) - Chuck Harris (Past NAWLA Chairman), Jim Stuckey, Charles Andre, and Warren Reeves (NAWLA Board Member).
Jim and I started our third and final day by enjoying my first ever breakfast at a Waffle House, with Warren Reeves. I was told a Waffle House is a must visit if you’re travelling through the South. It won’t be my last time, that is for sure. We then toured Wholesale Wood Products/Custom Manufacturing. They have an impressive operation, that does both wholesaling/distribution and remanufacturing from this facility, and have built up quite the business over the years. From there we headed to Louisville, Alabama to meet with Slawson Manufacturing/Southeast Wood Treating, a family run hardwood mill and treater. Our last stop of the trip took us clear across Alabama to Two Rivers Lumber Company, in Demopolis. This is a SYP mill that broke ground in January and is already running lumber. They just got started in September and is a very state of the art sawmill. Jim then brought me to Birmingham and I headed back to Chicago, with miles and miles of cotton fields, peanut farms, and southern yellow pine forests in our rear view mirror.
I’m grateful to Jim for setting up this trip, and for all the miles he spent behind the wheel. I have to thank all of the NAWLA members that have let me pop in, and interrupt their days. I look forward to chronicling future visits. I can’t wait to see everyone at the Traders Market in a few days!
NAWLA Executive Director