National Hardwood Magazine


October 2012 Feature Story


Ernest Lake Retires After 47 Years In Lumber Industry

By Wayne Miller

Richwood, W. Va.- Ernest Lake recently retired from The Collins Companies, located here, where he served as general manager overseeing the entire facility. A 1967 graduate of the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s (NHLA) Inspector Training School, Lake explained how he began his career in the forest products industry. “I was working for a small, privately owned lumber company. The owner called me into his office one morning and he said he liked my work and my attitude. In fact he joked that he hated to tell me I was the best worker he had and he needed a lumber inspector. So he sent me to the NHLA Inspection School.”

Born and raised in Webster County, which is about 75 miles from Richwood, Lake worked his way up in the lumber industry. “I started out as an ‘out’ person, taking outs on a small mill in Webster County in 1965. From there I went on to stacking lumber on the high docks. One day the same man who sent me to the NHLA asked me to ride the carriage. At that time you didn’t have electrical settings. Somebody actually rode the carriage and set the pins to determine the thicknesses, dog the logs and shove the boards over. I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, ‘well if you’ll just try I’ll only leave you on there until we can find a block setter and if the sawyer tries to run you off, come back in the office and we’ll go find a new sawyer and a new block setter.’ So I said, if that’s what you want me to do I’ll do it.” And that’s exactly what Lake did.

From there Lake went on to spend the majority of his career at the Richwood, West Virginia location purchased by The Collins Companies approximately seven years ago. “I began working here May 3rd of 1976,” he explained. “This was formerly a Georgia-Pacific (GP) mill. When GP decided to go out of the Hardwood business, we had companies visit us from all over. When Collins Companies came up, we met with Eric Schooler, CEO; Lee Richardson, VP Sales; and CFO Jack Silverston.

“When we toured the plant we found that Eric asked questions we didn’t even know existed,” he recalled fondly. “I told everybody that this company is different, the people are different. They’re not ‘kicking tires’ here, they’re serious. That was around June of 2005 and they became the new owners a month later.”

After 47 years in the lumber industry, Lake plans to spend his spare time biking, hiking and reading the Bible. “I started running and hiking in the early ‘90s,” he explained. “My son was running track and cross-country and that’s how I got involved. I enjoy reading the Bible and I want to know it as well as I do the lumber grading rule book.”

Married for 44 years, Lake and his wife have four children and 14 grandchildren. In closing Lake said, “I am proud of the entire Collins operation. I’ve been in this business for 47 years and I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful people. I’m proud of the resource, the people, and The Collins Companies.”


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