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quality of the white pine in this area that helped establish the
reputation for the Britton Lumber product, said Moses. Today,
those logs are shipped to the newly purchased facility in Bath,
New Hampshire, where they are processed. Britton’s wholesale
distribution division in Fairlee, Vermont, then receives about
50 percent of the manufactured pine boards milled in Bath, and
from there they are delivered to retail lumber yards throughout
the Northeast. The remaining 50 percent is sold into various
markets throughout the rest of the US, as well as internationally.
Every bit of every log is used, Moses emphasizes. From the
bark to the sawdust to the shavings, nothing is wasted. The
bark is sold to local landscapers. For the most part, the sawdust
produced is used to heat the kilns. The shavings (as well as any
excess sawdust) are sold primarily for agricultural purposes.
The chips are sold to paper mills or into the biomass market.
These days, Britton Lumber has 30 employees in both New
Hampshire and Vermont, and five more at a satellite wholesale
distribution yard in Gray, Maine. Britton Lumber operates a
total of 10 trucks among the three states, with two new leased
Freightliners about to hit the road, as well.
“We’re all in it together,” says Moses of the company’s
employees, explaining that he tries to get to know them all and
takes a team approach to managing the business. Like his work
as an accountant, he says that the lumber business is really a
people business. “It’s all about maintaining relationships,” he
emphasizes. “One of my main goals is to maintain the respect
that Britton Lumber has earned over the past 71 years.”
Of course, he’s also working to build on that reputation. That
has included using the insurance money from the fire to invest in
efficiencies at the new location in Bath, most notably construction
of a 15,000-square-foot storage building, the addition of a 7,500
square-foot addition to the front of the planermill, and renovation
of the existing facility, including adding some employee-friendly
amenities such as heat, automatic garage doors, and upgraded
restroom facilities. The company has also been studying how to
improve and upgrade its sawmill facilities – the first project in this
regard, which came online in June, was a software upgrade at the
head saw in order to optimize yield from each log.
The plan is to increase production at the mill from about 8. 2
million board feet per year to 10. 5-11 million board feet per year
within the next two years.
At the same time, Moses does not want to understate the
complexities or difficulties of the lumber business – whether
wholesale distribution or manufacturing. “Both of our lines of
business are highly competitive,” he says.
Britton’s manufacturing/sawmill division has been affected
along with many in the forestry industry by the loss of paper
mills and by low prices for many softwood products. “The price
received for our sawmill chips has fallen by more than a third
over the past year or so, which of course has had an impact on
our manufacturing cash flow,” explains Moses. The wholesale
distribution business success is driven by a high volume, low
margin business model. Many products distributed by Britton
are commodity-based, and this year the softwood lumber dispute between the United States and Canada has added another
degree of complexity. “We are fortunate to have experienced
personnel working for Britton; that has allowed us to not only
manage our own inventories, but to advise our customers on the
never-ending fluctuating markets,” says Moses.
For Moses, the transition to the lumber business has been
a trial by fire, literally. “I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that
I’ve had my doubts about my new career during the last two
and a half years after our sawmill fire,” he says. “It has been a
challenging period to say the least. However, I believe we’re
back on track and I couldn’t be more pleased that Britton now
has operations and employees located in all three northern New
Retired dairy farmer Alice Allen maintains her avid interest in all forestry, agricultural,
and environmental topics.