Simplemente Madera logs piled at La Rosita sawmill in the eastern autonomous region of Nicaragua.
SIMPLEMENTE MADERA GROUP Builds New Infrastructure For Integrated Operations
by Gary Miller
Managua, Nicaragua - Simplemente Madera Group Ltd. is a vertically-integrated hardwood timbergrowing, processing, product manufacturing and sales enterprise. With headquarters in Managua, Nicaragua, Simplemente Madera Group has developed expertise in a broad range of disciplines, which are used in the companies’ own businesses and offered to others on a consulting and project basis.
Simplemente Madera Group’s holdings include about 30,000 acres of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified forests, three FSC-certified plantations located in climatically-diverse areas of Nicaragua, several tree nurseries and one of the most extensive wood-processing and manufacturing facilities in Central America, producing both dried sawnwood and hardwood products like furniture, doors, decking, flooring, moldings, and modular housing.
Simplemente Madera air-drying facility located at the company factory in Managua, Nicaragua.
Simplemente Madera Group consolidates the business activities that were started in Nicaragua in 1998 by French agronomist Clément Ponçon, who initially established the business by purchasing 5,000 acres of fertile land for tree farming, reforestation and conservation. Together with his sons, Eric and Arnold, Mr. Ponçon began growing native trees species, such as Roble (a South American Oak), Laurel, Pochote and African Mahogany.
Matthew Falkiner, an innovative English architect and furniture designer, became a partner in the business to start its successful furniture design, manufacturing and retail businesses, as well as their architecture, resort design and development and modular housing enterprises. And Jack Donenfeld, David Glossinger and John Warrington became partners in Simplemente Madera Group to help expand the business with new capital and to develop its international business connections and reputation.
Recently, Donenfeld, Glossinger and Warrington arranged a large investment in the company by the World Bank’s private investment division, International Finance Corporation. This new capital has enabled the company to acquire significant additional timberlands in the eastern part of Nicaragua, as discussed below. “The World Bank is exactly the right kind of investor for our business,” said Jack Donenfeld. “They’re well-capitalized, understand the timber industry and appreciate the challenges and opportunities involved in our work.”
Simplemente Madera sign from their booth at the High Point Furniture Show in North Carolina.
With three plantations located in Mataglapa, Nagarote and another one near San Juan Del Sur, the Ponçons have planted over three million trees, which Simplemente Madera Group has now started to harvest. The plantation trees at San Juan del Sur share over 3,000 acres of land with Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, the destination eco-resort opened by the Ponçons in 2004. In addition to providing guests with world-class accommodations in an incomparable beachfront setting, guests have the opportunity to learn about reforestation, tree farming, sustainable agriculture and traditional farming techniques. Named after Alabama Senator John Morgan, who championed Nicaragua as the route for the trans-oceanic canal that was eventually built in Panama, this remarkable resort is located on the southwest coast of Nicaragua and about two and a half hours south of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital (less than an hour from the Costa Rican border).
Jack Donenfeld and John Warrington, who are now Simplemente Madera Group officers and directors, first met Clemént Ponçon at Morgan’s Rock when they visited Nicaragua with a client of their Cincinnati, Ohio-based international business planning and consulting firm. When a discussion about soybean, coffee and corn farms progressed to sustainable forestry, they began a friendship that led to consolidating Ponçon’s businesses into the enterprise that today is called Simplemente Madera Group.
The Simplemente Madera Team in Washington, D.C.: John Warrington, Eric Poncon, Clement Poncon, Jack Donenfeld and Arnold Poncon.
In September, 2007, Hurricane Felix, a category 5 hurricane, ripped through the northeastern corner of Nicaragua, leaving over three million acres of devastated forests in its wake. The Simplemente Madera Group, with government encouragement and support, took advantage of the situation, purchasing about 30,000 acres of rainforest, where they have been busy harvesting the old-growth hardwoods that once stood. “We had a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a vast area with significant numbers of valuable tree species. We moved quickly and have been rewarded for our efforts,” said David Glossinger.
The partners in Simplemente Madera Group, now including the World Bank, have invested not only in additional timberlands, but also in the infrastructure and equipment needed to conduct the company’s sophisticated logging and wood processing operations. This infrastructure includes new roads, offices, food service facilities, a fuel depot and housing barracks for the firm’s 150 employees that operate the company’s sawmill in La Rosita. “La Rosita is literally in the middle of the rainforest, where no infrastructure previously existed,” said John Warrington. “It’s been a dramatic process, and we’ve devoted a great deal of time to logistical and operational planning there. This has laid a solid base for our success.”
The company’s manufacturing facility is in Ciudad Sandino, about six miles west of Managua. This modern furniture and wood processing facility is on twenty acres, with two buildings that have over 100,000 square feet under cover for manufacturing purposes. The company has invested in new sawmills, kilns and other machinery needed to process the large quantities of hardwoods trucked to facility.
Simplemente Madera’s drying capacity exceeds 700,000 board feet per month.
Recently, Simplemente Madera Group installed six new drying kilns at the manufacturing facility to add to the existing three kilns, increasing their total drying capacity to over 700,000 board feet per month. And they are making arrangements to install an additional twelve kilns, each with a dry kiln capacity of 30,000 board feet per charge.
All of the exotic hardwoods harvested from Simplemente Madera Group’s lands are processed into sawnwood for sale as dimensional and structural lumber, decking, flooring, mouldings, doors, furniture, veneer and veneer logs. The firm’s wood products are sold in both the domestic and international markets and include not only Roble (a South American Oak), Laurel, Pochote and African Mahogany harvested from the original plantations, but also Jatoba, Ipe, Cedro Macho, Nanciton and Tamarindo that are being extracted from the rainforest areas hit by Hurricane Felix in the eastern part of the country.
Jack Donenfeld and John Warrington, who have been integrally involved in Simplemente Madera Group’s organizational matters, travel to Nicaragua about once a month from their offices in the U.S. John Warrington said, “We are continually working on operations to make them as efficient as possible, constantly developing and evolving.
Simplemente Madera Group employs over 400 employees. Key personnel include: President and Director Clemént Ponçon; Vice President and Director Arnold Ponçon; Director Eric Ponçon; Secretary and Director Jack Donenfeld; Treasurer and Director John Warrington; and Achitecture, Design, Furniture and Housing Division President and Director Matthew Falkiner.
One of Simplemente Madera’s nine drying kilns at their factory in Managua, Nicaragua.
Simplemente Madera Group has supplied their sawnwood and wood products to some fascinating places. For example, the company provided all of the hardwood flooring for the King of Morocco’s new house and all the furniture installed in a 38-room boutique hotel in New York City. In addition, Simplemente Madera Group’s wood products have gone into housing and condominium projects all over Central America and Europe.
Simplemente Madera Group’s forestry management has been awarded international certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), following an intense assessment of its operation by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood® Program, an accredited certifier for the FSC. “The FSC is an international non-profit organization founded to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests,” Jack Donenfeld said. “FSC certification assures our customers and clients that economic, environmental and social factors are integrated into our forestry management. We care about Nicaragua’s people and its flora and fauna, and we believe that there is an increasing demand for certified timber and wood products made from it.”
Simplemente Madera extracts Nanciton, among other species, from the rainforest areas devastated by Hurricane Felix in the eastern autonomous region of Nicaragua.
Conservationists and stewards of the land, the partners in Simplemente Madera have already begun replanting in the rainforest areas. The stewardship practices in place at their factory, sawmills, plantations and the rainforest operations are adopted according to the regimen and protocols required for FSC certification.
Timber buyers in Europe, North America, South America and Asia frequently ask for FSC certification when ordering forest products so they can assure their customers about the origin of the products they are buying. FSC certification recognizes the strength of Simplemente Madera Group’s commitment to sustainability and best practices and reflects the excellent skills of the company’s forestry and other staff.
For more information about Simplemente Madera Group and its products and services, please visit them at http://www.SimplementeMaderacom or contact them directly through John Warrington (513.833.3338, JWarrington @SimplementeMadera.com) or Jack Donenfeld (513.708.6500, JDonenfeld@SimplementeMaderacom).
Simplemente Madera has invested in new sawmills, kilns and other machinery needed to process the large quantities of hardwoods trucked from La Rosita to their factory in Managua, Nicaragua.