Tom Herga stands in front of bundles of FAS Sapele hardwood lumber at Hardwoods Import Lumber Division, Leland, NC.
Hardwoods Import Lumber Division, Sources Quality Products From Africa and South America
Leland, NC—In 2013 Hardwood Specialty Products bought Olam Wood Products’ distribution center. They named their new import division, Hardwoods Import Lumber Division, which is managed by Tom Herga, who has over 35 years in the imported hardwood lumber business. He is originally from London, England. Herga came to the U.S. with Craig Lumber Corporation in 1981.
“I worked with Craig Lumber for eight years as vice president,” he explained. “Then in 1989 I went to work for Thompson Mahogany Company as a partner. Later I started Inter-Continental Hardwoods for the TT Timber Group, which was eventually taken over by DLH Group. In 2010 I left DLH to start Olam Wood Products division in Leland, NC. Now that our Leland facility is owned by Hardwood Specialty Products, we are part of a group that is very large in distribution on the West Coast and the Midwest.”
Herga explained some information about Hardwood Specialty Products that is headquartered in Langley, British Columbia. “Our parent company that owns our import division is Hardwood Specialty Products, a wholesale distributor of hardwood lumber, plywood and related products. With 32 distribution centers located across North America and direct global sourcing, Hardwood Specialty Products offers immediate access to a large inventory and prompt dependable delivery, including direct and international shipments. The company’s international divisions provide innovative, cost effective solutions for customer specific requirements, and ensure the delivery of quality products through their regional inspectors and quality control.”
The operation offers 15 different species including: Afromosia, Aniegre, Cumaru, IPE, Iroko, Jatoba, Lacewood, Mukulungu, Padouk, Purpleheart, Sapele, Santos Mahogany, Tigerwood and Wenge.
At present Congolais Industrielle des Bois (CIB), a forest management company owned by Olam Group in the Republic of Congo, Africa, is partnered with the Hardwoods Import Lumber Division in that they maintain an agreement with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified company.
CIB has sawmills in the Republic of Congo and is 100 percent FSC chain-of-custody certified. As evidence of the company’s dedication to sustainability, the company went from 70 percent in 2009 to its current number of 100 percent FSC certified lands.
Herga explained the processes at the new division. “Essentially what we do here is we have a warehouse in Leland, which is near Wilmington, NC, and we bring in 50 percent of our lumber products kiln-dried from Africa. That product either comes from CIB or other mills that we deal with that have state-of-the-art technology. The other half of our imported lumber products are custom kiln-dried in the U.S.
Hardwoods Import Lumber Division encompasses a 67,000-square-foot warehouse and a 2,500-square-foot office. “Once the imported lumber arrives at our warehouse we sort for grade, grain, figure and width and length specification. We package and grade everything and we distribute premium tropical imported hardwoods to customers throughout North America,” Herga commented.
Herga said his division in Leland carries about 15 different species. “The main import species now being used in the U.S. markets are Sapele Mahogany, African Mahogany and Utile. We offer about 12 other tropical, more exotic species, which are used for flooring inlays and various other applications.”
The company delivers by contract carrier and imports directly by container to all U.S. ports.
Some of the imported species of lumber handled by Hardwoods Import Lumber Division includes: Afrormosia, Aniegre, Cumaru, IPE, Iroko, Jatoba, Lacewood, Mukulungu, Padouk, Purpleheart, Sapele, Santos Mahogany, Tigerwood, and Wenge. Many of the species just mentioned go into decking. “We’re in the process of promoting Mukulungu decking,” Herga explained. “It’s a relatively new and beautiful species.”
Primarily marketing to hardwood distribution yards, Herga said his division also deals with large endusers.
“One of the reasons we are using this model rather than having a large lumberyard is cost,” Herga noted. “Obviously since the recession, running a large lumberyard is very expensive overhead-wise, and we can do what we do here without having all the high overhead. The current trend is for a lot of the tropical suppliers in West Africa and South America, where we traditionally do business, to have their own kiln-drying plants. In days past we would have to bring in the product and dry it ourselves. That necessity no longer exists.”
He continued, “So we keep our overhead down by having a small staff here and doing the preparation work here instead of the custom-dry, which becomes very expensive and labor intensive.”
Herga said along with serving many of the same customers, the company remains a “just-in-time” supplier. “Even before the recession, people were not and are not buying for inventory any longer. They are looking for importers and wholesalers to stock the goods for them so that they can buy on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. That’s what we do, we specialize in ‘just-in-time’ shipments.”
As for logistics Herga mentioned the company delivers by contract carrier and imports directly by container to all U.S. ports. “Most of the lumber that comes through our Leland branch goes through the ports of Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, via 40-foot containers,” he explained. “We also offer direct shipments to customers in various locations of the U.S.
As relationships with suppliers are key, Herga visits South America and West Africa on a regular basis.
Hardwoods Import Lumber Division encompasses a 67,000-square-foot warehouse and a 2,500-square-foot office.
When asked about future plans for Hardwoods Import Lumber Division, Herga commented, “This business is going to grow considerably over the next couple of years. We are excited to be working with a great company, offering quality products.”
Hardwoods Import Lumber Division is a member of the International Wood Products Association and the National Hardwood Lumber Association.