By Tammy Moore Teague
West Fraser’s John McLellan, Procurement Manager and James Travis, Mill Manager, have 19 and 14 years experience respectively in the lumber mill business. And, that business is good!
Senator John Boozman stopped in last week for a visit and to discuss how the business is doing. “He likes to keep his finger on the pulse of how the business is doing and we appreciate the influence he has in helping us with funding and growth,” stated Travis.
In 2014, West Fraser saw the success former owner Gilbert Travis had maintained. Even through a housing market crash, which closed many mills down, Travis Lumber was able to stay in business. West Fraser ultimately purchased Travis Lumber as well as Bibler Brothers Lumber in Russellville. West Fraser is an industry leader with mills all across the United States as well as Canada. The Mansfield location leads District 8, which is comprised of 13 states including Arkansas.
The sister locations work on both the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests, which makes up a large volume of their production. “We feel very fortunate to work in two of the most productive forests within Region 8 and also the country as a whole,” McLellan stated. The good working relationship with the USFS is vital to their success. “We work well with the US Forestry Service,” Travis said. “We are very proud of our relationship with them.”
They operate with 28-30 logging contractors year round. Each of these contractors range from 5-15 employees. Additionally, they utilize road builders and construction companies to get all dirt work projects completed. “Logging contractors today really have it together,” commented McLellan. “They really know the business and are hard workers.”
West Fraser has seen continued success on the production side of the mill as well. Many of the jobs are technology based and the mill boasts one of the newest technologies in scanning capabilities.
Of course production is only one side of their business. Conservation is also important. “We feel like we operate a very important piece of the overall puzzle that makes up managing a health and sustainable forest,” said McLellan. “Every sale that we purchase provides us a renewable resource that we convert into timbers, lumber, bark, shavings and other products for the public.” In sum, nothing goes to waste in this efficiently ran operation. Their goal is to “improve the health of the stand for timber and wildlife while protecting the soil and water resources.” McLellan added that proper forest management is a win-win for everyone.
West Fraser’s operation is certainly a win for the City of Mansfield and surrounding community. The jobs and resources they put back into the community are vital. The local mill has been extremely successful in producing specialty timbers, which have been shipped all over the United States and abroad, including Asia and the Caribbean. The high demand has given way to some highly skilled positions within the company and multi-level job opportunities. “I feel like the young people graduate and just drive right past here and never give it a second thought, but there are a lot of opportunities to climb the ladder here,” stated Travis.
They aim to implement a recruitment plan in the near future. Additionally, they will continue to focus on improved safety, employee morale and retention. A special thanks to McLellan and Travis for the personal tour of their innovative operation. West Fraser is something our entire community can be proud of.
By Tammy Moore Teague