Wisconsin Logger Gears Up with Sons

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Jim Nordine Logging & Trucking moves to Timbco 415 EX with Rolly II HD harvester

LAND O’LAKES, Wisconsin — Jim Nordine, owner of Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking Inc., has been in business since 1967. Until a year or so ago, he was thinking of retiring. But his sons, Jason, 25, and Mark, 23, who both graduated recently from Michigan Technical University with forestry degrees, were interested in logging, and they wanted to stay in Wisconsin.
Consequently, Jim decided to change the way he logged and stay in business. He had a strategy to make a move that would strengthen the company.
Last fall Jim invested in a Timbco 415 EX, a track machine that is paired with a felling and processing head. He equipped it with a Rolly II HD Harvesting head. He wanted a nimble track carrier and also a processing head that could handle the tough hardwoods his company removes in select cutting jobs. Jim had purchased earlier a used Valmet four-wheel forwarder in good condition.
(Timbco and Valmet, which is made by Partek Forest AB, are now in the same family and under an even larger corporate umbrella. At the end of 2003, Komatsu Ltd. closed the acquisition of Partek, which had previously acquired Timbco.)
Ron Beauchamp, the owner of Woodland Equipment, a dealership in Iron River, Mich., sold the Timbco 415 EX and Rolly II combination to Jim. In fact, Jim said that one of the things that kindled his interest was not only what he had heard about the equipment but also the dealership.
“We talked to several people that have them,” said Jim, referring to the Timbco track machines, and got good reports. “We heard Woodland was very good on service. Everything we heard was true.”
Nevertheless, Jim spent time considering and evaluating other machines about which he had also received good recommendations.
Mark operates the Timbco 415 EX-Rolly II. Although he earned a forestry degree, he had never operated a feller-buncher or a cut-to-length machine. In fact, he had never worked as an operator of any other timber harvesting equipment until he got on the Timbco 415 EX-Rolly II. “I was totally green,” he recalled. He was running the equipment smoothly within a month, he estimated. “That’s a pretty fast learning curve.”
Ron supplied the men with a demonstrator machine, and Mark began working with it. By the time the company got its own Timbco 415 EX-Rolly II, Mark was confident in his operator skills. “I was pretty well ready to go,” he said.
Much of the timber harvesting operations performed by Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking require maneuvering the machines around in what can only be labeled a “tight” fit,” said Mark. The Timbco performs very well in such conditions, he said.
“It’s a really good machine,” said Mark. With its agility and tracks, which minimize disturbance of the forest floor, the Timbco 415 EX is well suited for the company’s operations.
The company typically contracts its services for hardwood forest management, tracts that are on 15 to 20 year cutting cycles, Mark explained. At the time Mark talked with TimberLine, they were thinning an uneven-aged stand of hardwood mixed with 85-year-old aspen.
Mark particularly likes the Timbco’s Sisu diesel engine. The Timbco EX series is the first to feature the Sisu as standard equipment. The machine also has “really good hydraulics,” said Mark.
The new machine already has had a good work-out in snowy conditions. The Nordines have been working recently in conditions with 18-24 inches of snow on the ground. The snow posed “no problem at all” for the Timbco, said Mark.
Jim expects the Timbco to be able to keep going strong through snow that accumulates to more than 48 inches. Since the company logs primary in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a long, tough winter is a given.
Located in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking Company goes north to Michigan on most jobs. The town of Land O’Lakes, which has a population of 882, is on the border between the states.
The Valmet forwarder is a touch machine, said Jim. It is equipped with chains to help keep it going in the snow.
The Timbco 415 EX and Rolly II combination has met every expectation that Jim had. “I thought it would take time to learn” the system, he said. The equipment is exceeding his earlier projections for production.
The Timbco 415 EX and Rolly II combination is helping the company achieve profitability. “It makes us much more competitive,” said Jim.
Risley came out with the Rolly II HD (heavy-duty) in 2003. With more than 20 changes, the two most significant are the heavy-duty rotate and improved hosing, adding to the Rolly’s strength and durability. The Rolly II can easily fell and process trees up to 24 inches in diameter, according to Jim, so there is “very little need for a chainsaw” these days. But when there is, he and his sons do have a favorite. “We like the Husqvarna,” he said.
Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking works on both federal and private land. Jason has the main responsibility for soliciting and bidding on jobs and negotiating contracts.
“We do our own trucking,” said Jim. The company has an International and a Mack truck as well as four flatbeds. The Valmet forwarder moves the wood to the landing area and loads the trucks. Wood is delivered to mills in Michigan and Wisconsin. The company supplies pulp wood, saw logs, veneer logs, and other markets.
Jim’s wife, Cathy, also is involved in the business. Before he got into logging, Jim ran a trucking business. He met Cathy years ago when he was making a delivery to Nagel Lumber Co.
“Her grandma was working at the time,” explained Jim, “She invited me in for some doughnuts.” As it happened, Cathy was also working.
Thinking back on the invitation, Jim concedes Cathy’s grandmother might have had matchmaking in mind. If so, she knew what she was doing. It was love at first sight, according to Jim. Cathy handles the bookkeeping for Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking.
Besides Mark, Jason and Cathy, Jim has two long-time employees, and both are extremely valued members of the company’s team. Jerry Winkworth has been with Jim’s company for about 20 years and operates the forwarder. Jim Pittlsley has been with Jim’s company for more than 20 years and drives one of the semis.
Mark said his forestry education comes into good use when he is operating the Timbco 415 EX and Rolly II. “I’ve got to make all the decisions” in processing, said Mark, in order to maximize the revenue the company can get from each tree.
There are seven or eight kinds of hardwood in the region that are harvested, said Mark. “Hard maple carries the most value,” he explained. “You have to memorize the species, the different prices, and decide how to cut.”
Keeping up-to-date on fluctuating log prices for each species is a must. Mark said he appreciates the ‘pre-sets’ on the computer that controls the Rolly II, which speeds the processing work and improves efficiency.
With two foresters in the company, Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking is able to offer “a complete package,” said Mark. The company can provide consulting forestry services, select and mark trees for thinning, as well as do the actual job of thinning, processing and hauling.
Jim said that he and Cathy are convinced they made an extremely good investment when they sent Mark and Jason to earn their forestry degrees. With Mark and Jason in the business, Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking is now a fourth generation business. Both Jim’s father and grandfather were loggers.
For his part, Jim discovered he had an affinity for logging and trucking when he was young. “I had sawdust and diesel fuel in my blood,” he said. “I’ve been in the woods since I was 10 years old.”
A native of Kenton, Mich., a town about 40 miles north of Land O’Lakes, Jim did not go immediately into logging as an adult. “I did construction work for two years after high school,” he explained. “I didn’t care for it.”
After the stint in construction, Jim worked for his father for a short time. Then, he launched his own business. “I started a trucking business,” he said, “then (added) logging,”
Cathy is a third generation participant in the forest products industry. Her family still operates Nagel Lumber Co. in Land O’Lakes.
Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking does some road building and is equipped with a Cat grader as well as a John Deere dozer. Jim also owns a John Deere cable skidder.
The terrain the company operates in is quite varied, and sometimes the landscape may be quite steep. The skidder is used occasionally in very steep places, such as for moving some logs out of a gully, Jim explained.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has many hills and low mountain ranges, most of which are richly forested. The elevation of the highest point is 2,023 feet, which is quite a contrast to the main area of the state, where the highest elevation is just 900 feet above lake level.
Jim is a member of the Timber Producers Association of Michigan and Wisconsin. He served as a board member of the organization for more than 15 years. And he never misses the opportunity to reach out to legislators and citizens to help them understand the important role loggers play in communities.
Jim is also a member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen, which is a safety promoting and self-insurance group for loggers. Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking puts a big emphasis on safety. “We have our monthly safety meetings,” said Jim, to keep everyone thinking consciously about the best practices in logging.
TimberLine has been regular reading for Jim since its inception in 1995. “I’ve been reading TimberLine faithfully since the beginning,” he said. “My whole family reads it. We enjoy it a lot.”
Because of the spring break-up in the Upper Great Lakes region, Jim’s company logs only 11 months a year. The period when thawing snow and ice and the resulting mud make logging nearly impossible is used for “a little r-and-r and maintenance,” said Jim. The team at Jim Nordine Logging and Trucking does 90% or more of all its own equipment maintenance.
Jim is optimistic about the future of the logging industry and its businessmen. “I think there’s a chance for future generations to be successful if they’re ambitious,” he said. Logging is an important livelihood, he said, because young people who choose it can live and raise and support a family in a rural area that otherwise may not offer many jobs.
An attachment to the Upper Great Lakes region definitely figured in Mark’s desire to remain and live and work in the region. “I’m an outdoors person,” he said. “I like to go hunting and fishing.”
When Mark and Jason were growing up, they were introduced to all parts of the wood products industry. Their father logged, and they worked for their mother’s family sawmill business, too, as they got older. As teens the boys “stacked a lot of lumber,” Mark recalled. The experience was valuable as they became familiar with different species of wood and the operations of a sawmill.
Mark’s interest in trees also extends indoors. “In high school, I got into woodworking, as a hobby,” he said. In the future, if he can carve out more time, he expects that he will put some of that interest to work in building projects. For now, much of his focus is on fulfilling his obligations to his father’s business.
There is a demand for good loggers, according to Jim, especially for contractors that can provide full service, from having foresters on staff to advise about management practices and selecting trees to felling timber and delivering the logs.
The Timbco 415 EX reduces ground disturbance and is the kind of equipment that makes it possible for him to stay in business, said Jim. One over-arching goal drives his vision of timber harvesting: “We like to get things right.”
Being a business owner and a logger suits Jim. “I like the outdoors,” he said, “and being my own boss.” When he pauses from work, Jim enjoys hunting ducks, geese and deer. Mark and Jason are also avid hunters.