CANON, Georgia – Andy Adams has led an interesting entrepreneurial life. He has owned and operated a number of businesses. In his 60s he started a sawmill business with prior experience in the wood products industry. His sawmill enterprise relies on several machines from Wood-Mizer.
Now, at almost age 85, Andy is seeking to hire a manager for his sawmill business so he can do some traveling while he still enjoys good health.
Andy grew up in the small town of Bowersville in northeast Georgia, which is not far from the state line with South Carolina. He lived in the same house while he grew up, and when he got married he lived only 5 miles away. “I’ve always lived in Hart County,” he noted. “I haven’t been far from home.”
He has had a varied career. After graduating from high school he worked on a surveying crew for the state highway department. Later he worked as a machine operator in a factory operated by Tenneco, which manufactured automotive shock absorbers, and subsequently as a lineman for the electrical cooperative in Hart County. Still later he started a small engine repair business, servicing and selling lawn mowers and chainsaws, and moving on to renting equipment to contractors.
Andy had substantial success when he started a business manufacturing trampolines. He built up a network of 1,000 dealers in 22 states. “At one time I was the largest trampoline dealer in the world,” he said. His business was so successful he gave up the small engine repair business.
However, his trampoline company began to decline precipitously when Walmart began selling trampolines that it imported from manufacturers overseas. “It went downhill from there,” he recalled. His company still sold a good volume of trampolines, but increasing price pressure by Walmart on his small dealers eventually doomed the business.
He launched another company, Fabritex, which is still successful. The company, founded in 1992, performs custom structural steel fabrication, specializing in tube, sheet metal, and plate fabrication. It employs 100-125 people and generates sales of about $10 million annually. Andy has turned the business over to his son.
Andy purchased a beach house in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, just a couple of years prior to Hurricane Katrina, which struck the region in 2005. He bought it from the widow of Steven Ambrose, the award-winning and best-selling author who wrote ‘Band of Brothers,’ ‘Undaunted Courage,’ and other popular works of history. “A beautiful place,” said Andy, on 4 acres.
The house vanished under the fury unleashed by Katrina. “It all went away…Nothing left,” except a swimming pool and a concrete pad where a garage once stood.
Andy was struck by the amount of downed pine trees left in the storm’s aftermath. “There were millions of them,” he recalled, everywhere, particularly in the region near the Louisiana-Mississippi border.
With the abundant supply of downed pine trees and the need for so much new construction to build houses in the region, Andy figured – correctly – that “it should be a great market for lumber.” And his raw material would essentially be free. “That’s what prompted me to buy the sawmill.”
Andy had been retired for a number of years. “I had a lot of time on my hands. It just seemed like it would be a good fit.” Although he had no prior experience in the sawmill industry, he decided to buy a portable sawmill and start a business cutting lumber. (After the mill began producing lumber, he eventually hired a contractor to build his new home and supplied all the framing lumber for it.)
Andy bought his first Wood-Mizer, an LT40, from a man in Ohio and hired him to go to Mississippi for about a month to train his crew. He purchased 9 acres at a site about 9-10 miles away from his beach home site and set up the sawmill on the property. He hired a crew of about six men, including four Honduran immigrants. He equipped them with a Bobcat skid steer and a dump truck to pick up and retrieve logs, which he got for free. “We didn’t have to pay anything.”
The mill was located on U.S. 90, which traverses a good portion of the Gulf Coast. “We just had a sign on the main road,” said Andy. The sign generated walk-in traffic for wholesale and retail sales.
The mill cut framing lumber, 2×4, 2×8, and other material, as well as 1×6 and 1×8 and lap siding.
Andy has upgraded the sawmill numerous times since then, usually with used machines, including transitioning from machines powered by a gasoline engine to electric, and eventually relocated the business back to Hart County, where he owns a farm, but he has always relied on a Wood-Mizer band mill. The business currently runs a Wood-Mizer WM4000 sawmill, but Andy has ordered a new Wood-Mizer WM4500 that is expected to be delivered in October.
The Wood-Mizer WM4500 can be used as a primary headrig to saw pallet boards, grade or dimensional lumber or to break down logs for further processing. It capitalizes on thin-kerf blade technology to produce accurate lumber while reducing capital, material, labor, energy, and maintenance costs. The mill uses steel wheels to power a 2-inch saw blade.
Features include a high pressure blade lubrication system, reinforced dual-rod side supports, heavy-duty angled bed rails, off-feed conveyor and roller, two powered taper rollers, board drag-back, hydraulic chain log turners, floor-anchored log clamp, laser sight, and human-machine-interface control screen. The Wood-Mizer WM4500, which can cut logs up to 21 feet long, also comes with an operator cab.
(For more information about the WM4500 or other Wood-Mizer products, visit www.woodmizer.com or call (800) 553-0182.)
Andy has never been tempted to buy a sawmill from a different manufacturer. The reason: the strong service and support he gets from Wood-Mizer. “They never had a problem they couldn’t fix,” he said. “They really go out of their way to help you.”
“I know there are other good manufacturers out there that make the same kind of sawmill, but…I have to stick with them.”
Andy has added to the sawmill over the years – all Wood-Mizer machines. The mill also is equipped with a Wood-Mizer HR500 four-head band resaw system and a Wood-Mizer EG300 board edger.
“I never bought anything from them that didn’t work well,” said Andy. “I have to stick with them.”
He relocated the sawmill to Georgia about five years ago. At the same time, he decided to invest in equipment to produce finished lumber. “In my opinion, you have to have a dry kiln and a planer-moulder. You cannot compete with Home Depot and Lowe’s on framing lumber. You have to have a value-added product.”
Andy was bidding on sawmill equipment in New York and bought a Nyle Dry Kiln dehumidification system. He had Nyle refurbish and upgrade it and install it in a kiln he built on his property; he also added new fans, baffles, and some other components. “It’s real simple to operate,” said Andy. “It does a good job in pine and poplar,” which is what he mostly dries. The kiln has a capacity of 24,000 board feet and can dry a load of pine in 10-12 days, depending on conditions.
Andy owns several tracts of land. The sawmill operates on his 130-acre farm, on which he grows alfalfa. Across the road he owns another 15 acres, and a few miles away he owns 300 acres of pine timber.
The mill business, which employs about 10 people, still cuts primarily pine and poplar. The ‘bread-and-butter’ product is shiplap, a tongue and groove siding that may be used for interior or exterior applications. Other products include flooring, tongue and groove flooring, and moulding. For example, the company can make custom moulding for people who want to match the moulding on an old house they are restoring. The company also sells a lot of green, air-dried, rough-sawn lumber.
The business is marketed via billboards, road signs and advertising. “I got a four-by-eight sign adjacent to Home Depot,” said Andy. “That’s been well worth the money.”
He harvests some timber on his tract of pine. Another source of logs is from contractors who are clearing land to build houses. “They’re just trying to get rid of it,” he said, and want to haul away the wood. “They call me, and I go pick it up.” He also buys some ‘gate’ wood from logging contractors, but his primary source of logs is a wood yard in South Carolina that has access to high grade logs from the mountainous region of Georgia and South Carolina. “It’s some beautiful stuff,” said Andy. “A lot of Virginia pines. Tight grain, good color. Doesn’t warp.
Andy is looking to hire a manager for the sawmill business and step away from it himself. “I’m in good health. I want to travel a good bit, all over the world, but the sawmill business is tying me down. I’d like to hire a manager and give him control.”
“The clock is running. It won’t last forever. If I’m going to do any traveling, I need to get on with it. I don’t want to stop the sawmill. I want to keep it running. The employees like the work.”
(Editor’s Note: If you are interested in the opportunity to manage Andy’s sawmill business, call his office at (706) 376-8968).