Cut-to-length logging, trucking and consolidation yard build a strong business.
BESSEMER, Michigan — First encounters mean everything. Good ones can hook a person for life. Take Ray Corullo, owner of Corullo Forest Products.
Corullo started Corullo Forest Products (CFP) 40 years ago. He had discovered a passion for logging and he decided to make logging his business. There were no loggers in Corullo’s family. Introduction to the industry came when he needed a job, having felt the employment ground shift in his previous occupation.
“I actually worked in the woods one winter,” said Corullo. That’s all it took. “I liked it and bought a pole skidder.”
With a Husqvarna chain saw, Corullo felled and skidded as a subcontractor for a bigger company for seven years. Then, he bought a sawmill and began to build a business of his own.
When severe competition made it increasingly difficult to purchase logs, Corullo decided to sell the mill and focus on logging. That was 30 years ago.
It worked out well. “I always liked logging [best],” said Corullo.
Just as a favorable first impression recruited Corullo to logging, a good first encounter ignited a long-lasting, working relationship between Woodland Equipment, Inc. (WEI) and CFP.
“I’ve worked with Woodland for the last 30 years,” said Corullo. “Our first purchase was a used logging truck.”
Corullo explained there was an immediate good feeling about the capabilities of the WEI team. He bought the truck; and he began to purchase other equipment from WEI.
The connection to WEI has served CFP well. “We get a lot of good service [from Woodland] and help with technical issues,” said Corullo.
In Oct. 2011 Corullo bought a TN725 TimberPro track carrier with a Rolly II harvesting head from Woodland. Corullo likes the track unit because it maneuvers well in the heavy snow conditions of his area.
The unit now has 2,300 hrs. and Scott DeRosso, the operator, has only had to change a few hoses. WEI has been up for scheduled new machine checkups and a few visits. DeRosso has been with CFP for 5 yrs. and operates and maintains the harvester steadily, doing hardwood thinnings most of the time.
In 1999 CFP bought their first CTL machine from WEI converting from conventional long-wood. The second 415-D Timbco / Rolly was purchased about 1 yr. later. The next few years Woodland (WEI) helped train operators and to learn maintenance on the harvesters. Woodland’s focus is to sell units that are productive and supply technical, plus parts support for all of its customers. The Woodland technical staff all has 20+ yrs. in the logging equipment industry. Their niche is hardwood harvesting machines.
“The TimberPro, we were a little bit familiar with that machine,” said Corullo. In the past, Corullo had had Timbco machines. And he was very happy when Pat Crawford launched TimberPro and then added tracks in recent years. Before buying, Corullo visited the TimberPro manufacturing facility in Shawano, Wis. to verify that he was getting the well-built machine he expected.
In 1995 Woodland mounted the first Rolly on a Timbco. At the time Crawford’s owned Timbco. WEI found the Timbco / Rolly combination more suitable than the excavator conversion packages the Rolly was being mounted on.
Then in 2002 Woodland mounted a Rolly on the new TimberPro rubber tire carrier the Crawfords began to build. This was the first control harvester / rubber tire unit to be marketed. Since 2008 TimberPro began offering the track carriers also.
The choice of the Rolly II head for the TimberPro was a given, explained Corullo. He had had the head on other carriers. Years ago, he settled on the Rolly because he wanted a cutting system that could keep pace with big logs and variation in log size.
“A heavier head” makes sense for the CFP operation,” said Corullo. “We cut 70 to 75 percent northern hardwoods.”
Among CFP’s 38 employees, there are four full-time mechanics, so any prospective equipment gets scrutinized not only by Corullo, but also by the staff that will maintain it.
Trees felled range from “pole trees, six- to 10-inch diameter, all the way up to a two-foot diameter,” said Corullo. “When we have three feet on stump, we go to a chain saw.” But that is rare, he explained.
For 10 years, Corullo has relied on Ponsse forwarders. “Just from the reports of other loggers,” said Corullo, the Ponsse got his attention. The Ponsse forwarder has been everything he expected in terms of agility and durability. He uses tracks on the wheels in winter and gets great stability even in deep snow.
Corullo plans to trade in the Ponsse forwarder he purchased in 2005 on a new model this fall. There is no question he will stay with Ponsse, he said.
Besides the CFP crew that runs with the TimberPro and Rolly II pairing and the Ponsse forwarder, there are two contracting crews that work for the company. “Just about all the timber we cut is on bid timber,” said Corullo.
CFP cuts in Michigan and Wisconsin, working within a 50-mile radius of its home base of Bessemer, Mich. in Gogebic County.
Bessemer, a town of 2,000 residents, is located in the far western part of the Upper Peninsula of the Wolverine State. It is the county seat.
WEI is located in Iron River, Mich., approximately 80 miles southeast of Bessemer. We caught up with Ron Beauchamp, president of WEI, who told us to expect Corullo to be modest about his business acumen and accomplishments. (And Corullo was.)
“[Corullo] has a very wide presence in the western Upper Peninsula,” said Beauchamp. “He handles more of the industry than anybody else does.”
Beauchamp said that Corullo is the steady presence behind this vigorous company. In addition to logging, Corullo runs a consolidation yard for Sappi Paper Co. in Cloquet, Minn. Moving 48,000 cords from Bessemer to Cloquet, Minn. per year, with the volume continuing to increase. Last year CFP moved 57,200 tons of bark and sawdust, plus 30,000 cords of round wood. CFP works with most of the other major paper companies.
Today, CFP uses the computer system developed by WEI. “Beauchamp has developed a simpler computer” for the cutting head, said Corullo. “It’s a lot simpler and trouble free.”
The TimberPro and Rolly II combination are a perfect fit for CFP. “We couldn’t be happier with them,” said Corullo. “In this day and age when profit margins are so small, you have to be consistent in production. I can’t say enough about the computer system [developed by Beauchamp]. I can’t say enough about Beauchamp or Woodland Equipment.”
Expectations met. Expectations exceeded. Those two statements sum up Corullo’s experience with WEI.
Prominent players in the extensive product line of WEI, TimberPro and Rolly II work together in a way that amplifies the exacting features of both machines. (Rolly II is made by Risley Equipment in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada.) For example, the TimberPro TN725 can move even as the tree is cut, plus the multi-function control head can carry and place trees in the proper openings between trees.
Woodland worked with Risley to develop the Rolly II, and did the prototype testing and sales for the first few years to get it into the market. The Rolly II was focused on hardwoods. There were many heads on the market but none was fit for long-term hardwood use. Risley and Woodland have made many significant changes to improve longevity and performance in the last 15+ yrs.
Woodland has been in the computer business for 20 yrs., starting with very basic units and modifying them in stages. They now are selling a canbus system that is reliable, easy to use and built for the U.S. market. Woodland’s products stretch from Maine down to Tennessee to Arizona. WEI specializes in new and rebuilt harvesters focusing on delivering units that are sound and reliable.
Woodland also sells the LogMax head for the customers that want a reliable dangle head.
The fleet that keeps logs and chips moving at CFP includes 15 trucks. “We also have road building equipment,” said Corullo. “A Komatsu dozer, front-end loaders, graders…We contract out to some land companies.”
Ask Corullo what he likes best about his professional niche and he has a quick response. “The friendships you develop,” he said.
“I’ve been pretty well blessed with employees,” said Corullo. “[Many] have grown up with me through the business. Our office manager, Donna Bessa, she’s been with me for 30 years.”
CFP’s wood yard manager, Loren Weimeri, has been with the company 27 years. So has Pat Balduc, the forester. “[Pat] does a lot of bidding,” said Corullo. Ken Rock is the maintenance manager, who oversees the team of excellent mechanics.
Corullo Forest Products and Woodland Equipment (in its 40th year) both incorporate more than three decades of experience. It’s not just experience that keeps a business strong, though. It is experience coupled with refinement of all that works and modification of all that does not.
When Corullo decided a sawmill would not be made into a profitable long-term venture, he sold the mill. When he saw an opportunity to build roads for land companies, he seized it. Reluctant to talk about himself, Corullo is still a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to making well-considered business decisions.
Corullo is a member of the Michigan Association of Timbermen (MAT), a non-profit association headquartered in Newberry, Mich. With a commitment to sustainable forestry, the association promotes understanding of forestry among policy makers and the general public. MAT also works with members on issues of safety and insurance.
In his free time, Corullo has two competing interests. “I very much enjoy golf,” he said. “I very much enjoy fishing.” Although he characterizes himself as a “weekend golfer,” Corullo admits competitive spirit attracts him to tournaments now and then.