BOONVILLE, New York – Mark Bourgeois credits his college football years in part for helping him found and grow a successful logging equipment business, CJ Logging Equipment Inc.
His family also has been integral in the success of the business, which has been serving loggers in the Northeast for more than 40 years and continues to expand.
CJ Logging Equipment represents Tigercat, TimberPro, Komatsu (formerly Timbco), Hood, Link Belt Forestry, Delfab, Rotobec, CSI, and Great Lakes Manufacturing. It is based in Boonville in upstate New York. Just under 70 miles northeast of Syracuse. In recent years the company has grown, opening three other locations, including one in Pennsylvania. The newest location, in Fremont, New Hampshire, positions the company to serve loggers throughout New England in addition to the other Northeastern states, New York and Pennsylvania.
Mark grew up in Boonville. He played football at Adirondack High School and received the Terry Hull Award for outstanding offensive player as a Lineman. His prowess on the field earned him a football scholarship to attend Sioux Falls College in South Dakota (now the University of Sioux Falls).
When he was on summer vacation in High School, he worked for an uncle, Richard Farr, a logging contractor. “My first job was to hand stack four-foot hardwood pulp,” he recalled.
Mark “graduated” to working with a chainsaw, felling timber and processing the logs. He even remembers his first chainsaw – a Homelite Super XL. He comments, I thought I died and went to Heaven when I upgraded to a Jonsered 70!” Thereafter he was operating a skidder while working in the summer, a John Deere 540A.
Mark’s original ambition was to become a veterinarian. He earned his bachelor’s degree in pre-med studies and was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska to pursue a graduate degree in animal science. After graduating from college, he returned to New York again to work for his uncle during the summer before attending Nebraska in the fall. Mark was enjoying working in forestry more and more, and he postponed going to graduate school for a year. The rest is history. “The sawdust in my blood took over,” he recalled. “I stayed in the forestry business.”
He already had an entrepreneur’s mindset. While he was working for his uncle, Mark knew that he wanted to be in business for himself. He investigated various opportunities and decided to open a chainsaw dealership representing Husqvarna. The year was 1981.
Other family members were involved from the start. His wife, Linda, his brother, Gary, and his mother, Janet, all helped launch the company. They struggled to come up with a suitable name for the business. In the end, at Linda’s suggestion, they named it after Mark’s paternal grandfather, Carl James Bourgeois, whose nickname was ‘CJ.’ They started the business in Carl’s old garage. The company’s original name was CJ Logging and Sawmill Supplies. After the business was incorporated, it was changed to CJ Logging Equipment Inc.
The Bourgeois family was approached by William Buckingham, a logging equipment dealer in Glens Falls in 1983, which is located on the Hudson River almost 130 miles to the east. He wanted them to represent his company, Loggers Equipment, and to sell logging machines. The Bourgeois family agreed.
After accepting the offer, Mark informed his father, Stuart, who was a teacher, that he was going to sell logging equipment. “It’s probably the first time I ever heard him use profanity,” recalled Mark. Stuart was convinced it was a bad idea and vehemently tried to talk Mark out of it. Ironically, after Stuart retired from teaching, he filled an important role at CJ Logging Equipment as the PR guy (Parts runner) as he frequently picked up needed parts for the company.
With the company’s relationship with Buckingham and Loggers Equipment, it began selling Tree Farmer skidders and Husky Brute knuckleboom log loaders. Soon after it also began representing the Hood line of knuckleboom loaders and slashers.
The company rather quickly outgrew its original location. The Bourgeois family built a 30×50 shop in the Boonville Industrial Park – the first occupant of the industrial park – in the mid-1980s. The family started a separate (remove logging) business, 3B Timber Co., in 1987, next to its new shop. Mark’s brother, Gary, devoted most of his time to that company.
Of course, there have been changes over the years. Franklin Equipment acquired Tree Farmer in 1990. Loggers Equipment switched to representing Timberjack soon after the acquisition, but CJ Logging Equipment continued with the Franklin Equipment-Tree Farmer franchise.
Mark made a trip to Wisconsin to meet Pat Crawford, the owner of logging equipment manufacturer Timbco, and his wife, Ruth, in 1993. Pat awarded Mark a franchise to represent Timbco.
With his relationship with Loggers Equipment, Mark was a sub-dealer for Western Star trucks. He was sent to the company’s factory in British Columbia when it introduced its new line of Constellation series of trucks in 1996. He met another logging equipment and truck dealer who represented Tigercat, selling the Canadian manufacturer’s wheel feller bunchers, and he began telling Mark what a great company Tigercat was. “My Franklin-Tree Farmer line was struggling,” said Mark. When Tigercat announced they were manufacturing skidders that same year, Mark contacted them and was awarded a franchise.
After Mark gained the Tigercat franchise, Tony Iarocci, the president of Tigercat, made a visit when CJ Logging Equipment exhibited at the New York State Woodsmen’s Field Day in Boonville that year. Mark’s company was exhibiting a new Tigercat skidder. A (omit Tigercat) customer asked Tony why he allowed CJ Logging Equipment to sell competing brands of equipment. Tony told him it wasn’t his position to dictate to franchisees what brands to sell. His focus for Tigercat was to manufacture the best forestry equipment which would dictate what the customer purchased. “What a great company attitude,” said Mark.
It was also during the mid-1990s that Mark hit on the idea of matching Timbco track harvesters with fixed harvester attachments manufactured by Risley Equipment. However, the Timbco standard boom geometry would not accommodate the attachments, which would require some type of bucket linkage. Mark made three trips to Wisconsin to discuss his idea with Pat. On his third visit, Pat noted that Mark was serious about it. “I told Pat that I preferred it be factory built, but if not, I would build the linkage myself. I told Pat I would order two machines with the additional linkage, and he agreed.” The bucket linkage became an option on Timbco machines and soon after became standard equipment.
As the company has grown, CJ Logging Equipment has added locations, expanding its market reach in recent years. It added two new locations in 2012, in Little Valley, about 50 miles south of Buffalo, and Allenwood in central Pennsylvania, about 70 miles southeast of Wilkes-Barre.
In 2020 Mark expanded in another direction, opening a location in Fremont, a community in southern New Hampshire from which CJ Logging Equipment can loggers throughout New England.
CJ Logging Equipment has service personnel stationed at its locations. However, it also has service technicians located strategically throughout its service area who are dispatched from their home and are equipped with service trucks in order to be able assist customers in the field.
Most of the company’s business is forestry-related, noted Mark. (0mit “That is what we have done.) Consequently, that’s what we know and understand. Although large construction equipment companies can be successful selling forestry equipment, that is usually not their focus.”
Mark bought his brother’s interest in the company in 2015 to become the sole owner, but CJ Logging Equipment is still a family business. Mark and Linda have two sons, Chad and Aaron, who work in the business. “Both have been involved for many years with the company with different but complementary skills,” said Mark. Chad spent many years on the road as a service technician; he continues to help the service department, but he also oversees most sales in the company’s southern market region. Aaron also is involved in equipment sales and has been working more in the business side of the company. “My wife, Linda, is still my go-to person in many areas,” said Mark.
“As a family-owned and managed company, we specialize in building relationships with (our) customer,” said Mark, “and earning their trust. Our customers are our top priority. We go the extra mile to provide the dependability they deserve.”
Loggers in the Northeast and elsewhere face plenty of challenges, observed Mark: labor, the high price of fuel, government regulations, and the cost of equipment.
Wood markets in the Northeast are mixed, according to Mark. “With rising interest rates for home mortgages, the softwood lumber market may be adversely impacted. With higher prices for fuel, the low-grade market may improve. I think the hardwood market will be stable. Prices for pulp must go up or the mills will not be able to get the raw material to make their paper products, which are on the rise now as they seem to be recognized as environmentally friendly.”
Mark has been active in his community and in the logging industry. He serves on the board of directors of the Northern Loggers Association. He is the past president of the Boonville Area Chamber of Commerce for seven years, past president of the Boonville Youth Athletic Association for eight years, and past coordinator of the Boonville Snow Festival for nine years.
CJ Logging Equipment is a long-time supporter and donor to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through the Log-A-Load for Kids fundraising campaign. Every year the business helps raise money to support the hospitals, whose mission is to improve children’s health through treatment, education and research. Log-A-Load for Kids is an annual campaign that began in 1988 when loggers and other businesses in the forest products industry donated the value of a load of logs to their local CMN hospital.
Mark has future plans for the business “in the right circumstances,” he said. “Right now I am focused on improving all our operations and watching how the world situation unfolds.”
Mark was quick to identify the reasons for the company’s success. “Great Team members! We need more!” Some employees have been working for CJ Logging Equipment for more than 30 years.
The commitment of family members also has been integral to the success of the business. “Working with family can be challenging at times,” said Mark, “but it also comes with a level of certainty and comfort. The support from my wife, Linda, has been extraordinary.” The high school sweethearts have been married more than 40 years. “My mother’s determination and work ethic certainly were a driving force, too.” Janet Bourgeois died in 2020.
His success also hearkens back to his football experience. Playing and competing in football for nine years “really molded my direction in life,” said Mark. “Leaving the small town of Boonville after high school and going to South Dakota to compete with a 100 plus other young men to make a football team was challenging. When you’re part of a team, you have a specific job to do. You have a role in individual plays that make up the game. You play in some less-than-perfect conditions at times. You may have to play in pain. You win some games, and you lose some. I think playing a team sport at that level was a good experience for being in business. There are a lot of parallels.”
“I believe I am the most blessed person on earth,” said Mark, whose father, Stuart, is 94. I am married to a wonderful wife. Linda and I have two wonderful sons and (omit two wonderful) daughters-in-law, Elise and Sara, and we have six grandchildren: Grace, Caleb, Lucile, Avery, Kenneth, and Evelyn. The grandchildren are grand!”
(For more information about CJ Logging Equipment or the manufacturers it represents, visit the company’s website at www.cjloggingequipment.com or call 1-800 541-4214)