Franklin Lumber counts days to openingPublished 10:22am Wednesday, November 13, 2013
ISLE OF WIGHT–A permit is apparently the only thing needed before Franklin Lumber LLC can begin work next Monday, but the new mill’s co-owners don’t anticipate any delays.
“The [Title V] air permit is required for any air emission due to our natural gas boilers and lumber-drying kilns,” said Terry Godwin, procurement manager and co-owner of the mill. “The Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality has been working hard to get the permit to us, and it should be ready by Nov. 18. I don’t anticipate anything holding the permit up.”
In late June, the announcement was made that Godwin and business partner Perk Taylor, the chief executive officer, had worked with International Paper about reopening the mill.
“IP and Franklin Lumber are entering into an agreement to sell IP’s dormant sawmill assets, lease the site, provide services, and purchase the residual pine chips generated by Franklin Lumber,” stated Jenny Hutto in an email at the time of the announcement. She’s the communications manager for International Paper-Franklin Mill. “The agreement between Franklin Lumber and IP includes the sale of equipment and use of space that represents excess site capacity for International Paper’s Franklin site.”
Godwin worked at IP for a decade, and part of that time he served as the log procurement manager for the mill. Taylor worked as an engineer at the site when it was rebuilt in 1986.
Franklin Lumber will make lumber for the retail, treating and truss manufacturers as well as timbers for industrial uses and other specialty products.
The first day of operation will begin by greeting the new employees and getting them started on orientation, including necessary paperwork, said Godwin.
“We will also go through extensive safety orientation to keep everyone safe,” he said. “The new employee paperwork will not take long, but the safety orientation will be ongoing. We will also start machine center orientation for each employee.”
Godwin said Taylor and he consider themselves fortunate that so many former employees are returning.
“These employees will be invaluable, as they not only know their jobs but [also] can help the new employees and help train them. If all goes well we will saw a few logs and start the process of starting the mill,” Godwin said.
He added that the mill has hired all of the employees needed for now, and isn’t taking any more applications. Once fully staffed, there will be 70 to 72 people employed.
The mill will operate from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday; on Friday, from 6 a.m. to noon, followed by maintenance and clean up. A normal workweek will be 48 hours, said Godwin, and the maintenance crew could work more than that.
Last Tuesday, Franklin Lumber bought its first load from S&M Timber Products Inc. of Sunbury, N.C. That’s one of 30 suppliers to date and more are being added daily, he said.
“I think the log suppliers are ready for another market for their logs. The log suppliers are the lifeblood of the mill and we are thankful for the response we have received so far,” continued Godwin. “We are also getting strong interest from area landowners that see log prices coming up and are ready to sell.”
While the supply side is strong, the buyers’ side is no less important.
“We started getting inquires immediately after the press release came out about the reopening of the mill,” he said. “Our plan is to produce lumber similar to the way Union Camp did — the best quality that we can provide. This has struck a chord with the lumber markets. The majority of the interest has been in the treating and truss markets. It sounds like to us that those markets are ready for a higher quality board and we are ready to produce it. We decided not to take preorders until we knew what our logs supply would be. Now that we know we can get a good log we can begin talking with our lumber customers.”
Godwin was generous with praise for the maintenance crew that’s labored so intensely the past several months.
“There is no way we would be where we are now without their hard work and dedication,” he said. “We have also had some great contractors such as High Ground Services and Metal Tech that have been a huge help. We are looking forward to welcoming our new employees in next Monday and start making some lumber.” Last, but certainly not least, Godwin also credits IP for making the new company possible.
“I also need to add IP has been a tremendous help in transitioning the mill to Franklin Lumber,” he said. “Their expertise in bringing a mill back from a closure was very valuable. We couldn’t have found a better partner.”