Photos by Gary Miller
Dermott, AR – Maxwell Hardwood Flooring recently hosted their 25th annual September meeting of the West Side Hardwood Club. The luncheon featured a fish fry that was held at Seven Devils Legacy Lodge. Approximately 50 people attended.
Those in attendance enjoyed spending time together networking and sharing insights about the industry. Overall, the event was upbeat, though most in attendance cited ongoing challenges to production and finding enough employees to fill job openings. Several sawmillers mentioned that since they were getting the highest prices for their lumber they had ever experienced in 2021, they considered this year as their most successful year since they’ve been in business.
At the time of this meeting, some sawmill representatives noted that their regions were still recovering from Hurricane Ida’s onslaught. As one stated, his region received so much rain from Ida that it would take weeks for timber tracts to dry out enough to get loggers and equipment in the tracts.
His best-selling lumber species at the time of this writing was White Oak, followed by Poplar and Red Oak, mostly in 4/4. Common and Better was noted by most in attendance as the preferred grade being bought by customers.
Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas were the primary states most of the mills and wholesalers were located in that attended the meeting. One lumberman cited Texas as the primary state where board road and mat material was sold to various buyers.
Another sawmill representative, like many others in the industry, lamented the labor shortage as a significant challenge to doing business. He noted that there not only exists a shortage of general laborers, but skilled workers as well.
He added that at the time of this meeting, Red and White Oak prices on the green side, which is his market, were up slightly and that it was “always a battle getting enough Hardwood logs.”
He didn’t blame the log shortage on rainy weather and wet timber tracts, but more as a condition of the overall industry and market, such as a shortage of loggers in many areas of the country.
While most sawmillers in attendance complained about the lack of workers, others were not experiencing that predicament, and a few are able to run more than one shift.
In another area of concern, the truck driver shortage, which has been ongoing for several years and was exacerbated during the pandemic, continues to challenge many in the industry with no end to the dilemma in sight. However, some reported no serious issues with transportation. In fact, one attendee said he is in the best position he has ever been in for 18 years because some local trucking companies have “stepped up” for his firm.