Milt Cole is owner and president of Cole Hardwood Inc., located in Logansport, Ind.
Cole Hardwood Continues To Expand, Improve
By Paul Miller Jr.
Logansport, Indiana—Almost 10 years after a devastating fire destroyed Cole Hardwood Inc.’s facility here in Logansport, Ind., the company is thriving in both the domestic and export markets. Milt Cole, company president and owner, is a man who always tries to take a positive spin on things, which prevented him from cutting his losses and walking away from the company and instead reinventing the company to be even better than it was before.
“A positive attitude is the secret to life,” Cole said. And within two years of a fire that completely devastated the company, Cole Hardwood was back, better than before. And since that time, the company has continued to grow under Cole’s direction, leadership and positive attitude.
Cole graduated from the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. Inspection School in Memphis, Tenn., in 1956 and began working for the John I. Shafer Lumber Co. that spring. After devoting his entire career to the company, he bought the operation in 1986, when the inventory averaged 8 million board feet per year.
Randy Cole is Milt’s son, who is learning the business from the inside out to prepare for the day when he takes over the company.
Today, Cole Hardwood sits on 32 acres of land with eight acres of covered air-drying space; has a kiln-drying capacity of 1.3 million board feet; has a 100,000-board-foot double-sided surfacing capacity per day; and encompasses 200,000 square feet of warehouse and office space. The firm is also equipped with sprinklers for fire suppression and canopies between the buildings to enable the company to work year round and in any weather condition. The company also installed a state-of-the-art dust collection system.
Also located on the 8-acre site is Indiana Dimension Inc., Cole Hardwood’s sister company, which shares the same dust collection system. The system allows the company to move saw dust efficiently through a duct system to silos near the boilers on both the north and south sides of the facility, which provide steam for the dry kilns, as well as heat for the buildings.
IDI serves as another arm of Cole Hardwood that Cole established in 1990 in an effort to serve even more customers. The operation is located on the same property as Cole Hardwood, occupying 175,000 square feet of production space. IDI produces dimensions, panels, mouldings and cabinet components in Ash, Cherry, Hickory, Hard Maple, Poplar, Red and White Oak and Walnut.
IDI employs 60 people, with Roy Rentschler serving as president, and Cole is the chairman of the board at the company.
Cole Hardwood sits on 32 acres of land, along with Indiana Dimension Inc., a sister company owned by Milt.
Cole Hardwood purchases North American Ash, Beech, Cherry, Hackberry, Hickory, Hard and Soft Maple, Red and White Oak, Poplar, Sassafras and Walnut in thicknesses up through 8/4 in all species, and 16/4 in some species. All lumber at Cole Hardwood is end-coated while still green, and air-dried lumber is stacked on ties, 8 inches off the ground for better air circulation.
“We work toward a good general appearance for all our lumber, and our customers tell us our quality holds up,” Cole said.
Employees are also important at Cole Hardwood, and the almost 70 employees who work there are integral to the company running smoothly and providing customers with the high quality products.
“I feel our major strength is and always will be our organization,” Cole commented. “We’ve got some very good, knowledgeable people and we are all working to improve ourselves, not just for the company, but for the industry.”
Cole Hardwood also has on-site rail spur and container loading and delivers within a 300-mile radius on the company’s own fleet of trucks.
Dave Bramlage serves as sales manager of the company.
“We try to view our market in two ways,” Cole explained. “We try to stay diverse within the industry, and we try to be diverse geographically because sometimes this is a great advantage in recessionary periods.”
To serve customers located in other parts of the globe, Cole Hardwood exports a portion of their products to various parts of the world, predominantly Asia, which the company started doing 25 years ago. The main countries that the firm serves are China, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand, as well as the UK, Germany, Italy and Ireland.
While Cole Hardwood was unable to do any exporting immediately after the fire, the company today exports 32 percent of its products.
“At the time of the fire we didn’t have computers on our desks, and that’s another reason that we started from scratch—unless a customer called us, we didn’t have much record of who to contact or where to go when we went overseas other than just from memory, so it became a new process,” Dave Bramlage, sales manager, stated.
So after building up slowly, the company has restored contact with old customers, as well as added new ones.
Jeff Manges, Rob Young and Tom Oilar are integral to the operation.
“We lost a few of those, who went to other customers, but for the most part we got a lot of them back,” Bramlage explained. “We went after old markets we had before the fire, redeveloped relationships with those people, and we have gone after new markets.”
And serving those markets is also important to Cole. He said that the firm provides customers mix and match containers for smaller companies, offering diversity in thickness and grade.
Cole Hardwood is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc., the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Assoc., the Hardwood Manufacturers Assoc., Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., the Wood Component Manufacturers Assoc., the Hardwood Distributors Assoc., the Kentucky Forest Industries Assoc., the Lake States Lumber Assoc. and the American Hardwood Export Council.
The grading chain at Cole Hardwood is located in the 200,000-square-feet of warehouse and office space on the company’s site.
Cole Hardwood has eight acres of T-sheds for air-drying.