Partnership Spells Success For Hardwoods of America
By Paul Miller Jr.
Key executives of Hardwoods of America LLC, headquartered in Fayette, Miss., include Charlie Netterville, president; Palle Pedersen, general manager; and Tony Rasberry, plant manager.
Fayette, Miss.—Though technically a new company, Hardwoods of America LLC, headquartered here, boasts nearly 150 years of industry experience. The four-year-old firm is an equal partnership between Fred Netterville Lumber Co. Inc. in Woodville, Miss., Rutland Lumber Co. Inc. in Collins, Miss., and Rives & Reynolds Lumber Co. Inc. in Louisville, Miss.
Charlie Netterville, owner of Fred Netterville Lumber and president of Hardwoods of America, said the partnership helps the three companies handle their domestic and international clients more effectively.
“In 2004, we were all sitting around, trying to figure out how to become more efficient in our lumber export endeavors,” Netterville said. “We knew that our company (Fred Netterville Lumber) wasn’t big enough to make an impact on its own, so I initiated dialogues with Terry and Bruce Reynolds (president and vice president) of Rives & Reynolds Lumber and Leslie Rutland (owner) of Rutland Lumber. It didn’t take us long to agree that joining forces on the export front was the answer and Hardwoods of America LLC was born.”
Netterville added, “What makes Hardwoods of America unique is that three companies came together knowing that if we’re going to survive in our industry, we have to survive together and not apart.”
The combined efforts of the three major hardwood manufacturers ensure quality, diversity and availability to potential buyers. All three companies also have a reputation for honesty and integrity.
Fred Netterville Lumber was established in 1952 and has two manufacturing facilities in Woodville, Miss., and Jackson, La. The company produces 31 million board feet of lumber annually, and has 650,000 board feet of kiln capacity and carries an average inventory of 8 million board feet.
This photo shows hardwoods air-drying in two of the company’s T-sheds. Hardwoods of America has 6.5 million board feet of T-shed capacity.
Rutland Lumber produces 22 million board feet of lumber annually. Rutland, established in 1956, also produces crane mats, and has over 500,000 board feet of kiln capacity.
Rives & Reynolds Lumber has three mill locations including its Louisville headquarters, as well as Natchez and Kosciusko, Miss. The company, established in 1971, produces 40 million board feet of lumber annually and is owned and operated by the father and son team, Terry and Bruce Reynolds. The firm has 500,000 board feet of kiln capacity with an average inventory of 7 million board feet.
Netterville said Hardwoods of America gives each member company more production and a greater share of the export market. “If we want to export 10 to 15 percent of our wood, we can,” he said. “Instead of having 1.5 to 2 million board feet of lumber to export, we now have 10 to 15 million board feet to play with.”
For three years, Hardwoods of America was based out of Fred Netterville Lumber’s offices in Woodville. Just last year, the firm purchased the old Thomasville Furniture Industries Inc. facility in Fayette called Fayette Enterprises.
“The facility was operated since the early ‘70s and has 12 computer-controlled kiln chambers with a total drying capacity of 1.2 million board feet, boilers and enough T-shed capacity to hold 6.5 million board feet under one roof,” Netterville said. “It’s a wonderful 60-acre facility, all black top and concrete.”
Netterville said reopening the doors of the closed facility also helped add new jobs to Jefferson County. “We participate in OJT (on-the-job training) programs,” he said. “It makes us feel good to help the community and create jobs. Losing manufacturing jobs is a big concern for every company in the United States.”
Hardwoods are shown exiting the automatic stacker.
After acquiring the Fayette Enterprises complex, Hardwoods of America continued to grow. The company added Palle W. Pedersen, general manager; Tony Rasberry, plant manager; and Annette Dillon, administrative assistant. Bruce Zhang is in charge of the Shanghai, China, sales office.
The new employees including Pedersen brought even more experience to HoA. Pedersen, a 40-year forest products industry veteran, began his career with The East Asiatic Co. Ltd. in Copenhagen, Denmark. He worked as assistant lumber manager in EAC’s New York office, timber export manager in EAC’s Kuala Lumpur office, import manager in EAC’s Houston office, and distribution center manager in Madison, Wis. Pedersen has also served as import manager, vice president and president of International Wood Products; president of Swedish Match Industries; and general manager and vice president of Sitco Lumber Co.
Netterville said Hardwoods of America is running smoothly, but is also doing some renovations to the complex in Fayette with hopes to have everything completed by the close of 2008.
“We have six kiln chambers (about 600,000 board feet) running at this time,” he said. “We have a great manufacturing facility here with the capability of producing flooring blanks and mouldings, gang rip and surfacing. We have a Newman 382 planer to surface lumber.”
Hardwoods of America reconditioned its automated lumber stackers, grading chains and Taylor forklifts. The company also upgraded its chemical feed and water systems, and acquired computerized tally equipment to help keep track of lumber inventories.
“For our own benefit and for the benefit of any of the number of companies for whom we do custom drying, we track inventories constantly and can provide tallies for everything, regardless of whether the lumber is pre-drying, in the kilns or at any other stage of preparation,” Rasberry said. “We can give them all the information that they need to know on a daily basis while their lumber is going through the system.”
Through the joint efforts of the three partners, Hardwoods of America LLC produces and markets nearly 100 million board feet annually of Red and White Oak, Poplar, Ash, Cottonwood, Cherry, Pecan and Hickory (FAS, No. 1 and No. 2 Common).
This photo shows three of Hardwoods of America’s 12 computer-controlled dry kilns, each with a capacity of 100,000 board feet.
Netterville said the company manufactures mostly 4/4 thicknesses, but can adapt to cut whatever the market dictates. He noted that, sooner, rather than later, North American lumber manufacturers will have to change the status quo in the name of survival.
“In our industry, over the next few years, it will not be just about buying logs and cutting and drying lumber,” he said. “We’re going to have to include ripping and trimming for fixed widths/fixed lengths as well as surfacing and moulding functions for S2S/S4S boards, furniture blanks and house mouldings. We’re going to have to try to get as close to the finished product as possible to make our customers’ lives easier and thereby encourage them to buy our products.”
“In the next few months, we’re going to face a $600 per container increase going to Asia,” Netterville added. “We certainly can’t absorb all of that and our customers can’t either. If, however, they can buy a product that is only a few manufacturing steps away from their finished product that would be a wonderful thing to offer them. I think the ones that survive in our industry during the next decade are going to be the ones that adapt to change.”
Netterville said the company ships approximately 400 to 600 overseas containers each year to China, Vietnam, Europe and a few other markets. He noted that Hardwoods of America plans to double that volume in the next year, and “maybe even triple it down the road.” The firm generally uses the Port of Mobile, Ala., located approximately 250 miles from Fayette, and the Port of New Orleans, La., about 170 miles from Fayette to ship its products internationally.
Pedersen added, “We currently average 50 to 60 containers a month going to China, particularly in No. 1 and No. 2 Common Red and White Oak. We are developing new business in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries in species such as White Oak, Ash and Poplar. We are open to custom kiln-drying for other hardwood producers, importers of exotic hardwoods and softwood producers and will be glad to quote our competitive rates upon request.”
Hardwoods of America is a member of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. (NHLA). Bruce Reynolds of Rives & Reynolds serves on the NHLA board of directors, while Netterville is a past board member. Leslie Rutland is a former board member of the Hardwood Manufacturers Assoc.
For more information, contact Hardwoods of America at 601-786-3473, visit www.hardwoodsofamerica.net or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.