USA Woods International Inc. Partners For 25 Years And Counting
By Wayne Miller
Germantown, Tennessee—Exporting North American hardwood lumber is USA Woods International, Inc.’s only business. With a mission to provide consistently superior, export-quality hardwoods at competitive prices, the company offers Red and White Oak, White Ash, Walnut, and Hard Maple in 4/4 through 12/4 for most species. Special services include rough-sawn, quarter-sawn and rift-sawn lumber.
In 2014, USA Woods is celebrating 25 years of experience anticipating and reacting to the needs of the intricate international trade of hardwood lumber. Founder Ron Carlsson has more than 38 years of experience in the export industry.
Born in Sweden, Carlsson has spent most of his life in the United States. He maintains dual citizenship after becoming a Naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998.
Carlsson was living in California in 1973 when he decided to move to Memphis, TN, and enter the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s lumber grading program. He is a graduate of the 51st class of the NHLA’s Inspector Training School. “After graduating from the NHLA grading school, I worked for about 15 years with key lumber wholesale and import companies, which allowed me the opportunity to learn the business and cultivate relationships.”
Carlsson began his own operation buying and selling hardwood lumber from his home. He rented an office space for two years and then purchased the building that houses USA Woods today.
“Nothing that we’ve done here today would have been possible without the partnerships I developed along the way,” he explained. “From the standpoint of export lumber, I partner with specific mills to do the right thing as far as the lumber is concerned. It wasn’t easy finding good sawmills that have the quality standards I was looking for and that my customer base demands. I found some of the best, which are all a party to my continued success today.”
Specifically Carlsson mentioned the now deceased George Hinton of Tuscaloosa Lumber Co., Tuscaloosa, AL, from Carlsson’s early days in the business and when he went out on his own. “He always said he looked at me as a son in many ways. He used to jokingly tell my customers that he would give me a million dollars credit if I needed it. He was a huge supporter and encourager to me.”
Sourcing from Appalachian, Northern and Southern regions, USA Woods has the ability to obtain specific colors and textures of lumber that meet the needs of the most discerning customer. “We have worked very closely with our suppliers throughout the years,” said Carlsson. “We selected them carefully because we rely on them to ship what is expected on a consistent basis.” He also noted he visits his suppliers frequently. “I make regular visits to maintain relationships and to ensure quality.” Carlsson also visits his overseas customers regularly. “We travel to wherever our customers are. Last year I went to Ireland, Europe and Southeast Asia and this year I visited customers in Australia with two of our main mill suppliers,” he said.
Serving a niche market, USA Woods exports its products 100 percent of the time. The company’s relationships span decades. “We have long, loyal relationships because we ship quality products at a fair price,” Carlsson said.
While some of USA Wood’s shipments go out of the Gulf Coast, most of the lumber is railed to East or West coast ports for container ship loading. The mountains of export paperwork involved are handled in house.
Carlsson said most of USA Wood’s products are used in applications such as hardwood plank flooring, kitchen cabinets, doorframes, moldings, tabletops and custom staircases.
Key personnel at USA Woods include Carlsson’s wife Susan who oversees company finances and ‘runs the business of the business,’ Linda Putnam, Logistics and Documentation Specialist, and John Fairbanks who pitches in wherever needed. Carlsson says, “We have a great team and enjoy working together.”
USA Woods International is a member of the NHLA, Lumbermen’s Club of Memphis, and American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). The company supports the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program. Carlsson is a past President of the Lumbermen’s Club of Memphis. He has served on the Boards of AHEC and the NHLA, where he was Chairman of the Inspection Training School for 5 years. He was voted 2013’s Lumberman of the Year by the Lumbermen’s Club of Memphis. He has served on the Board of The Agricenter International in Memphis for approximately 10 years. He has two stepsons with his wife Susan and six grandchildren.