With a surname like Wood, it is no surprise that Tony and his father, Dean, co-owners of a company that produces sustainably sourced wood pellets for residential heating, carry a family legacy in the Maine forest products industry that stretches back five generations.
But for a time, the future of that legacy was uncertain. A former sawmill and shipping pallet factory in Baldwin, owned and operated by the Wood family for 130 years, closed in the early 2000s, due to declining demand.
After years of mill closures and significant job loss due to globalization and shifting markets, Maine’s forest products industry is evolving. In order to remain competitive, wood products businesses are diversifying, and as a result, creating economically and environmentally sustainable models that contribute to greater prosperity in rural communities. New technologies are helping to drive innovation that supports sustainable forestry management practices.
In the growing, modern renewable heating market, Tony and Dean saw an opportunity to bring a local, sustainably sourced option to replace fossil fuels for residential customers in New England.
The Woods’ vision included co-locating a pellet mill alongside an operating sawmill with a constant waste supply of on-demand sawdust, shavings and sawmill chips. In 2017, the father and son began to put the financing together for their new venture next to Pleasant River Lumber in Sanford.
The mill had strong support from the local community and received a Community Development Block Grant from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. But the start of a new production mill is capital intensive and complex. The Woods approached CEI for help in identifying lending partners for the many facets of constructing and commissioning the mill. To provide much needed working capital, CEI tapped an award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Services for loan and workforce training funds for the new venture along with participation funding from the Southern Maine Finance Agency. Primary construction and equipment financing from Partners Bank and Granite State Economic Development was augmented by funding from Maine Technology Institute and Efficiency Maine.
The high-efficiency manufacturing facility was commissioned in December 2018 with seven employees. As part of its workforce training agreement, CEI worked with Wood & Sons prior to the completion of the facility to identify the certifications and training new employees would need to operate and maintain the state-of-the-art equipment.
Having a role in building out the facility from the ground up enhanced employee engagement as the equipment came together and the first pellets came off the production line.Art Stevens, Business Development Officer, CEI Workforce Solutions
Even in 2018, the Maine labor market was tight, particularly for manufacturing. So CEI helped management review the quality of their job offerings to put them in a strong recruiting position. While many benefits, including a health care plan, were already in place, CEI provided the company with additional tools, including performance evaluation and professional development templates, to increase employee engagement
and job satisfaction.
Since then, Wood & Sons, has more than doubled in size, providing good jobs to fifteen employees who receive above living wage salaries, 100% coverage of health care premiums and a generous match to their Health Savings Accounts in addition to three weeks of paid time off annually. The company regularly sells out inventory and is working to add a third crew that would allow them to increase production, raise hourly wages and reduce shift lengths.
Learn more about Wood and Sons
- Website: Wood & Sons (woodandsons.co)
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodandsonsco
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_woodandsons
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/@woodandsonsco