Hamer Companies, headquartered in Kenova, W.Va., is truly a family tradition in the lumber business. Pictured above, from left, are Jim P. Hamer II; Lori Hamer, president of Hamer Pellet Fuel Co.; and Steve Hamer, president and chief executive officer of Hamer Lumber Co.
Hamer Companies Committed To Excellence
By Terry Miller
Kenova, West Virginia—For over 70 years, Hamer Companies, headquartered here, has been committed to providing quality hardwood lumber products to its customers around the globe.
Situated in one of the most thriving hardwood forests in the world (in the heart of the Appalachians), Hamer operates five hardwood sawmills with an annual production capacity of approximately 85 million board feet (200,471 M3). Hamer also operates two hardwood pellet mills with an annual production capacity of some 85,000 to 90,000 tons. Other operations include three dry kiln/concentration yards, a trucking company and a logging company located in West Virginia.
Hamer Lumber is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. (NHLA), Appalachian Hardwood
Two kiln-dried loads of lumber are shown ready to be exported and loaded into containers.
Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI), American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), West Virginia Forestry Assoc. (WVFA), Kentucky Forest Industry Assoc. (KFI) and many other industry associations.
Steve Hamer, a fourth-generation lumberman, is current president and chief executive officer of the Jim C. Hamer Co. and has dedicated 30 years working in the family business. Steve’s sister, Lori, is president of Hamer Pellet Fuel Co. and it was Steve’s brother, Jim P. Hamer II, who he credits for getting Hamer started into the pellet business back in the early 1990s. J.P. Hamer, Steve’s grandfather, was literally born with “sawdust in his veins,” in a logging camp in 1905.
J.P. Hamer Lumber Co. was started during the Depression of the 1930s. “My father, J. C. Hamer, started the Jim C. Hamer Co. in the mid-1970s and today remains as chairman of the board.
“I welcome my father’s participation, active involvement and leadership experience. He is without a doubt the best lumberman and sawmiller I’ve worked with and I count my blessings for that opportunity. But I know my father would convey the same about his father (J.P. Hamer).”
Cherry veneer logs are prepared for export.
J.C. Hamer has devoted most of his life to this industry that he loves. J.C. has held numerous offices such as past president of NHLA, AHMI and many other organizations in which he served and has given much of his time to help better our industry as a whole.
Hamer has a deep commitment to “sustainable forestry” and implements West Virginia’s Best Management Practices on over 500,000 acres of company-managed timberlands. “Many customers today want to know if we are running out of trees and some inquiring about third-party certification for further proof of our commitment,” Hamer said. “My response is that our livelihood depends on these precious forests in which we work and live. Further, statistical data provided by the U. S. Forest Service substantiates the Appalachian forest region is in fact growing more trees than is being harvested.
“One good testimonial is that we are cutting in many of the same timber stands today that my grandfather cut some 40 years ago,” he said. “We are good stewards of the forest and invite our customers to come look at what we
The Hamer hardwood lumber sales team/sales support staff sit around a conference table at the firm’s headquarters in Kenova, W.Va. Pictured above, from left, are Xiaowei Wang, Todd Webb, Jack Hatfield, Viola Epling and Amy Finn.
are doing in these wonderful forests that sustain our livelihood. There are more trees in West Virginia today than at any time in the last century according to the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
“We invest premium dollars for quality and it all starts with the standing timber in the woods,” Hamer said. “Our forestry team knows quality timber. Every day, they’re out actively pursuing quality timber stands, managing current stands and continuing to add to the procurement of additional future hardwood stands for our future growth.”
Hamer Lumber offers various hardwood species including Poplar, Red and White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Ash, Basswood and Hickory. Poplar constitutes roughly 27 percent of the production and is available in 4/4 through 8/4 (Face & Better, No. 1 Common), 10/4 and 12/4 (Face & Better, Select, No. 1 Common, No. 2 Common). The company also offers a fixed-width product in selected species and grades like 6-inch through 10-inch and 12-inch and wider.
“Our customers associate the name Hamer with quality products and quality people who strive to meet or exceed their customers’ needs,” Hamer said. Red and White Oak account for nearly half (45 percent) of all lu mber produced. Twenty percent of that mix (about 16 million board feet) is White Oak, which is available in 4/4 through 8/4 on a regular basis and we have cut 10/4 and 12/4 upon request.
Jimmy Stout, left, manager of the Curtin, W.Va., mill, and Steve Hamer stand in front of one of Hamer Logistics trucks, which is pulling a load of green lumber into the dry kiln facility.
“Customers buy from Hamer because we have a proven track record, a well established name with an excellent reputation that’s been hard-earned and well deserved,” Hamer said. “They know that they can rely on us for a product that is going to satisfy their needs and demands, not only today, but well into the future.”
Hard and Soft Maple (approximately 15 percent of production) are offered in 4/4 through 8/4 thicknesses. White Maple is one of the company’s specialty products and has been consistently sought after by our quality-conscious customers.
“The quality of the product generally sells itself, but we must also sell ourselves to the customer,” he said. “We stand behind our product and, if our customer is not happy, we want to be the first to know about it. If there’s something wrong, we’re going to make every reasonable effort to make it right.”
The company also produces varying amounts of Cherry (4/4 through 8/4); Walnut (4/4, 5/4, 8/4); Ash (4/4 through 8/4); Basswood (4/4 through 12/4) and Hickory (primarily 4/4).
“We not only have the ability to provide customer-specific products, but we also have the ability to look ahead and can offer a 12-month production/forecast commitment to our customers,” he said. “It’s very difficult to beat the superior widths and lengths that we offer. But in today’s challenging hardwood business climate, it’s imperative to have something that differentiates or separates our product from our competit
Jimmy Dearing, Hamer sawmill division/operations manager, and Glenn Headrick, Hamer/Elkins dry kiln manager, stand in front of a bundle of lumber ready for export.
ors’ in an effort to keep that insatiable appetite for our products.
“ ‘Your No. 1 customer is your competitors’ No. 1 prospect’ was a quote given to me years ago from my grandfather,” Hamer said. “It obviously still holds true today.”
Hamer Lumber not only specializes in merchandising of lumber, but also offers veneer logs. Logs are protected by adding S irons and applying ANCHORSEAL (which is a wax-based sealer) to the ends of the logs to prevent or minimize the logs from cracking or splitting. ANCHORSEAL is also applied to the green lumber to prevent or minimize end checks or splits. After that, the lumber, which is graded before and after kiln drying, is end painted with GEMPAINT to provide a more favorable appearance for valued customers. Both ANCHORSEAL and GEMPAINT are supplied by Steve Hamer’s good friend, Norm Murray of U•C Coatings Corp.
Hamer has a dynamic sales support group that covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Jack Hatfield is the lumber sales manager and Todd Webb works on both export and domestic sales along with Xiaowei Wang. Amy Finn focuses on domestic sales and provides other IT sales support assistance. Viola Epling is the shipping manager and is responsible for getting the product assigned and directed to its rightful destination — providing detailed support to the sales team.
Elkins, West Virginia, has a 23-acre site in the industrial park, which is home to Hamer Logistics, a trucking company; Hamer Dry Kiln, a kiln drying facility; and Hamer Pellet Fuel, a wood pellet operation. Hamer Logistics was founded to better serve customers’ delivery time and improve upon intercompany product transfers. “It has alleviated many problematic areas in spite of the thought of owning and operating another business,” Hamer sai
Hamer Lumber has a deep commitment to sustainable forestry. Pictured here, Jim C. Hamer, company founder, stands in a log yard at the Prestonburg, Ky., sawmill.
Hamer Dry Kiln brings the company’s total drying capacity to approximately 1.3 million board feet or over 30 million kiln dried board feet annually. A second wood pellet operation is located in Mt. Hope.
Curtin, West Virginia, hosts Hamer’s largest sawmill operation and produces some 26 million board feet annually. One of the firm’s three dry kiln/concentration yards is located here.
Curtin is also home to Trees Are Us , a logging company, which “offered (Hamer) an opportunity to revisit and rethink what we were doing as a management team,” Hamer said. “As we continued to see many of our loggers leave this occupation for various reasons — many opted to get out of the logging business — we were compelled to make the commitment to help keep our mills operating. So we put together our own logging crew and we’re revisiting other areas we may need to change to continue to survive.
“Hamer Lumber’s export business has continued its growth due to many factors,” he said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with the export market many years ago was to broaden our market diversity. This has been vitally important in recent years due to the rapid decline of domestic manufacturers here in the United States.
“Any of us still in the hardwood lumber business today have been forced to rethink and re-evaluate how we do business today and reposition our companies accordingly,” Hamer said. “We must possess a willingness to change and adapt as we continue into our third year of difficult business conditions. My grandfather gave me a paperweight years ago that reads ‘Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do.’ I think this is most fitting today, and I’m happy to report that Hamer is still here today and remains poised for the future challenges that lie ahead for this industry.”
There are many reasons why Jim C. Hamer Co. feels such a deep obligation and responsibility to the future. One is the fact
One of three headrigs at the Curtin sawmill is shown with White Oak being sawn on the carriage.
that “over 400 families depend on it and these same people are the backbone of the Jim C. Hamer Co.,” Hamer said. “Our dedicated and resourceful employees are ultimately responsible for Hamer’s continued success in this tough business. From our loggers, foresters, sawmills, truckers, concentration yards, pellet operations, to our main office in Kenova, we all strive to keep our customers with an insatiable appetite for Hamer products! We recognize the fact that our customer’s needs must be put first and their ultimate satisfaction is our goal.”
“With the technology in place at all of our production facilities and a substantial timber base located in the heart of the Appalachian mountains, our customers can be assured the Jim C. Hamer Company can and will meet the demands of our customers now and well into the future,” he said.