Orangeburg, South Carolina—Forty years ago, a young man in his mid-20s started a company with three employees and a total payroll of $200 per week, which included his own salary. His business was buying pulpwood for fence posts that he would treat to prevent ground rot.
The man was William Cox, and his office was a shack on one acre of land roughly a mile southeast of Orangeburg. There were no chairs or desks in the building that served as his office.
Today, Cox and his family own and operate a diverse forest products company incorporating an ever-increasing number of exports with annual gross sales totaling $98 million.
Cox Industries Inc. is parent not only to the local Cox Wood Preserving Co. Inc. and its two divisions, but also to five wholly-owned subsidiaries in three South Carolina communities, two locations in North Carolina and one in Georgia. The payroll currently numbers 250 employees and while Cox retired at the end of 1997, his son, Bill Cox Jr., continues in his father’s footsteps.
Bill Cox Jr. is the chief executive officer and president at Cox Industries Inc.
Among the products that the company produces are Wolmanized treated wood products, largely in Southern Yellow Pine; an outdoor furniture manufacturing operation, which produces gazebos, sun-decks, arbors, swings, chairs, tables, benches and accompanying accoutrements; a finger-joining and laminating operation; and two others producing utility poles, marine piles and fence posts.
The secret to the success of the Cox family can be condensed into four facts, according to Bill Jr.: a continuing study of the forest products industry trends; total integrity in business and in personal matters; hundreds of 12-hour work days by Bill Jr. and his management team; and a persistent learning process, which in recent years has involved expansion into exporting many items in an ever-growing product line.
For several years, the Cox family has also seen growth in import areas, bringing in Pine from South an d Central America to be put to use alongside and sometimes in conjunction with its more traditional Southern Yellow Pine.
Today, in the 4
Longtime employee Daniel Gartman readies a multi-spindle boring machine at Palmetto Manufacturing Co. Inc.
5-acre Cox Wood Preserving yards just behind Cox Industries Inc. headquarters building, there’s an average daily lumber inventory of 14 million board feet.
Just down the road, one of Bill’s sisters, Vickie Vernon, heads up the sales department at Palmetto Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of outdoor leisure furniture with growing involvement in the export trade.
Cox Wood Preserving started the export ball rolling for the company about the time of the Gulf War through a joint venture with an Israeli firm.
“We are supplying Southern Yellow Pine for manufactured homes for Jewish immigrants,” Bill Jr. explained.
These days, furniture and decking are shipped to Western Europe from the Palmetto division, whose overs
Harry Reed is plant manager at Palmetto Manufacturing Co. Inc.
eas clients have included buyers in Bermuda, Cyprus, Japan, Belgium, England and Ireland.
“Canada is also a large and growing market for both our outdoor furniture and our kiln-dried treated Southern Yellow Pine,” Bill Jr. added.
Vernon said she is enthusiastic about the company and its growth in the export business.
“Since we’ll soon be turning architectural columns of imported Radiata Pine from Chile and Iriata Pine from Argentina—as well as from our more traditional domestic Yellow Pine—our total product line is being expanded, too.”
Palmetto Manufacturing was previously Edisto Furniture, which manufactured and marketed a line of Redwood stained swings and picnic tables. Today, Palmetto offers those as well as other products under the Island and Everlast brand names in both fully-assembled and kit form, everything constructed to pressure-treated Pine, safeguarded against rot and decay and utilizing steel hardware fasteners.
Rockers, lounges, chairs, ottomans and a variety of tables and swings are offered through the company,
Palmetto Furniture Manufacturing Co. Inc. produces outdoor furniture and decking.
and members of the Cox family attend outdoor furniture trade shows in Chicago, Illinois, Atlanta, Georgia, as well as on the West Coast and overseas. The company markets their products through distributors or directly from Palmetto Furniture Co.
Like Vernon, corporate personnel chief Kathy Yeadon—whose office is adjoined to her brother, Bill Jr., at Cox Industries Inc.—Vernon is involved in all corporate matters and decisions at the closely-knit family operation.
Harry Reed, plant manager at Palmetto, has been with the company since it was Edisto. Today, half-a-dozen warehouse buildings and storage sheds house the manufacturing and storage operations.
“In addition to interesting designs, we are especially proud of the sturdy construction and lasting attributes of our outdoor furniture,” Vernon said. “All of our wood is pressure-treated Pine, preserved with lifetime resistance to decay and termites, even in-ground contact—.4 pounds per cubic foot. Our products are also treated with water repellant to retard the movement of moisture. And after this treatment, the wood is dried, giving it dimensional stability.”
Furniture parts awaiting assembly are always kept under shelter until they are used.
Vernon continued, saying that all external screws and bolts are stainless steel, and all sections of the company’s products are assembled with truss-head wood screws.
Bill Jr. said that he also sees a rapid growth pattern for the overseas shipments of the family’s outdoor furniture division.
“The growth opportunities are endless,” he stated. “We are proud to be involved with world trade.”
Lumber awaits processing at Palmetto Manufacturing Co. Inc.