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New York Logger Transitions to Chipping: Mitchell Logging Benefits in Change from Round Wood to Chipping Operations
Mitchell Logging – New York Contractor Makes Transition with CJ Logging Equipment
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 5/1/2009
TUPPER LAKE, New York – Paul Mitchell has worked in logging for more than 30 years, but until 2006 he produced round wood for sawmills and paper mills.
Three years ago he was presented with an opportunity to switch to full production of ‘clean’ chips for the paper industry and took his company in the new direction.
“It’s done well for us,” said Paul, who owns Paul Mitchell Logging. “It’s been a very good transition.”
Chipping operations are more efficient, said Paul, and produce more volume with about the same number of employees or less.
Although he had lengthy experience in logging, Paul had no experience in chipping operations. “I started off fresh with it,” he said.
“I got the opportunity from International Paper to provide its Ticonderoga mill with clean chips,” recalled Paul. “I felt like it was the right decision.” Ticonderoga is located nearly 100 miles to the southeast, near Lake Champlain.
Paul hails from Tupper Lake, New York, which he described as “right in the center of the Adirondack Mountains, two and a half hours from any major city.” It is in northern New York, more than 150 miles north of Albany and about 30 miles west of Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Paul, 51, grew up in Tupper Lake and only has moved about a quarter of a mile in his lifetime.
Paul has worked in the forest products industry his entire life. He started out at age 18, operating his own skidder and subcontracting to a sawmill and then to logging contractors who were cutting for paper mills.
Mitchell Logging has 22 employees. The company’s primary business now is producing ‘clean’ wood chips for paper mills. “They’re still buying plenty of chips,” said Paul. The mills usually stock up with chips before the advent of ‘mud season’ in April, he added.
Paul’s employees and equipment are deployed on one job at a time. Ninety-five percent of the company’s production is hardwood, he estimated. He sells some saw logs but very little. All the low-grade timber is processed into chips.
Most of the land on which Paul’s company works is owned by investment companies; the owning companies contract with a timber management business for forestry services.
Paul contracts to supply chips by the ton. “It’s mostly select harvesting,” he said. The timber management firm marks the trees to be harvested or provides Paul with a prescription for how to harvest a tract. “Some of them, we take out as much as 40 percent of the basal area out,” said Paul. “Others, we’ll take all the low-grade material out.”
In the past six months Paul also has begun supplying a good volume of chips to a promising new market – a business that manufactures wood fuel pellets. The pellet mill is relatively new and only has come up to speed in the past six months, he indicated.
The timing couldn’t have been better. The paper industry, although steady, has slowed down somewhat, said Paul, but the drop in volume has been offset by sales to the pellet mill.
Paul has a market for slash, too. The chipper is equipped with a chain flail to remove limbs and branches. The debris is collected and put into a grinder, and the biomass material is supplied to a pair of co-generation plants within 80 miles.
Paul mechanized his logging operations in 2000. Until that year, all felling was done by hand with chain saws.
Paul buys logging equipment from C.J. Logging in Boonville, roughly 100 miles to the southeast; Boonville is nearly 70 miles northeast of Syracuse.
He has been very satisfied with his relationship with C.J. Logging Equipment, said Paul. “They’re an unbelievable company. They stand by their equipment 100 percent.”
Mitchell Logging is equipped with three Timbco (now Valmet) feller-bunchers with Quadco saws. Six Tigercat 630 grapple skidders are used to skid the trees to a landing. Three Tigercat loaders are used at the landing to handle the wood – a Tigercat 250 track loader, a Tigercat 245 rubber-tired loader, and a Tigercat 220 loader, which is mounted on a deck trailer with a CSI delimber. All the machines have been purchased from CJ Logging Equipment.
Mitchell Logging also has road-building equipment, trucks and trailers. The company has Caterpillar and John Deere excavators, bulldozers and front-end loaders and a grader, eight semi-tractors plus trailers.
For chipping and grinding, the company is equipped with a Peterson Pacific horizontal 2400B grinder and a Peterson Pacific 5000G chipper. Although he relies on C.J. Logging Equipment for logging machinery, Paul bought his Peterson Pacific chipper from Lyons Equipment because C.J. Logging Equipment does not sell equipment for producing ‘clean’ chips for the pulp and paper industry.
The Timbco machines originally were equipped with feller-buncher heads that ran Quadco 2800 intermittent saws, but Paul later changed to 22-inch ‘hot’ saws, which run continuously and enable higher production.
Paul’s company has a shop with two full-time mechanics to service and repair equipment. “Just about all the equipment comes through the shop once a year,” he said. The company also has one service truck so a mechanic can work on equipment in the woods, but at this time of year both mechanics generally are working full-time in the shop, getting equipment to run again after the mud season is over.
Although Paul relies on C.J. Logging Equipment for parts, most service work is done by his own two full-time mechanics. “Once in a while, we call for troubleshooting,” he said.
Mitchell Logging offers employees heath insurance and a retirement plan. Employees are paid hourly and can overtime after 40 hours. Truck drivers are tested for drugs and alcohol.
Paul is active in the Northeastern Loggers Association, serving on the board of directors. He also serves on the advisory board of a self-insurance organization.
The Northeastern Loggers Association sponsors an annual machinery and equipment exposition, the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Exposition. Although it is held annually, the expo is held in alternate locations from year to year, switching from Bangor, Maine to Essex Junction, Vermont. In earlier years it rotated between Bangor and Springfield, Mass.
This year, the expo will be held May 1-2 in Bangor. For the first time, the association added a second event, which was held April 3-4 in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
“We felt like there was a void in southern New York, near the Pennsylvania border,” explained Paul. The association’s leadership “felt like they do one that far away (from Maine and Vermont) without overlapping.”
The Watkins Glen debut event generated attendance of more than 2,500 despite rainy, cold weather, according to the association. It tentatively plans to hold it again in 2011 but is considering plans to hold it later in the month of April in hopes of having more favorable weather conditions.
He has been fortunate that he has a number of employees who have been with Mitchell Logging quite a long time, said Paul. “That’s a key to business today, having long-term employees. They deserve a lot of credit.” One worker has been part of the company for 25 years, and a number of others have 10-20 years of service to Mitchell Logging.
Mitchell Logging has a shop and a 6,400-square-foot office located about a quarter-mile from Paul’s home. His son, Paul Jr., 29, is heavily involved in Mitchell Logging after joining his father five years ago. “He runs the chipping operation,” said Paul. Paul’s wife, Mary, also is part of the business, keeping the books and running the office.
Paul’s main leisure pursuit is hunting. He enjoys deer hunting in New York but also has gone on hunts for caribou and went to Alaska to hunt bear. “I like to hunt just about anything, I guess,” he said.
Paul described the business climate as “scary.”
“Time will tell how it’s all going to work out for us,” he added. “We’ve been busy up until…this past week,” which was the end of March. “This is our slow time of the year. April is usually slow anyway.”
Asked how his business has been impacted by the overall weakness in the forest products industry, Paul said, “We have not been affected, but I cannot believe we will not be affected in some way, shape or form.”
Paul’s timing to convert to full chipping operations was fortuitous in hindsight. The hardwood grade market has been struggling about two years, a victim of the precipitous drop in home building.
“The hardwood saw log markets is pretty doom and gloom” in the region, noted Paul. “It’s pretty slow.”
He has talked to mill representatives at various industry meetings. “Everybody’s struggling,” he said.
CJ Logging Equipment Serves NE
C.J. Logging Equipment in Boonville, N.Y., founded in 1981, is owned and operated by Mark Bourgeois and his family. The company takes its name from Mark’s grandfather, Carl J. (C.J.) Bourgeois, who was well known in the region for selling motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles and guns out of his garage.
CJ Logging Equipment is a dealer for a number of forestry equipment manufacturers, including Tigercat, TimberPro, Valmet, Rotobec, Risley, Woodsman, Husqvarna and others.
CJ Logging Equipment offers:
• Sales and service of top-quality products at competitive prices.
• Diverse, specialized forestry equipment to meet a wide range of needs.
• A friendly, honest, knowledgeable sales and service staff who value giving advice over making a sale.
The company offers residential landscaping tools to heavy-duty timber harvesting equipment for professional loggers.
For more information, see the company’s Web site at www.cjlogequip.com or call CJ Logging Equipment at (800) 541-4214.
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