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Arkansas Company Expands into Manufacturing: Hallco Industries’ Moving Floor Trailers Are Important Vendor for Wood Shavings Supplier
ETW Enterprises – Hallco Moving Floor Trailers Help Keep Arkansas Business Rolling
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 8/1/2009
MORRILTON, Arkansas – Edwin Wells built a successful business as a young man, sold it and was able to retire while he was only in his 40s.
A turn of events, however, put Edwin back to square one – building the same business again from the ground up.
Once again, though, his business is thriving – thriving as never before as he expands it into manufacturing operations to produce wood shavings for the poultry industry.
One constant for him, when he first built the business and now the second time around, has been open top trailer vans equipped with Hallco moving floors to offload his company’s products. Hallco has been one of the company’s leading vendors.
ETW Enterprises is based in Morrilton in central Arkansas, about 50 miles northwest of Little Rock. The company is owned and operated by Edwin, 52, and his wife, Melanie, 46, who talked to TimberLine about the business.
ETW’s main enterprise is producing and supplying wood shavings primarily to the poultry industry for use as bedding in buildings – called growing houses or chicken houses – where chickens are grown to market. The company also supplies wood shavings for horse bedding.
Rice hulls are another product used for poultry bedding. Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, Ark. has been an important part of the continuing availability of bedding materials. Edwin has maintained a good working relationship with Riceland, which has played an important part in the growth of his business.
ETW also has wood grinding operations to produce mulch and boiler fuel from scrap pallets and residual wood material. The company is equipped with a Peterson Pacific 4700B grinder. The grinding operations are organized as Wood Waste Recycling Inc., an expanding businesses that serves businesses such as Evergreen Packaging in Pine Bluff and Green Bay Packaging in Morrilton.
The company’s office and main facilities are in Morrilton, where it is building a new office and shop complex that ETW expected to occupy in late July. A new manufacturing plant just opened in Avoca, and it also has storage facilities in Morrilton, Avoca, Pine Bluff, Mansfield, Gravette and also Neosho, Mo.
Edwin grew up in Morrilton and was a star football player; his high school team won the state championship in his junior year. He received football scholarship offers from six colleges but turned them all down. Edwin already was focused on business. By age 17 he already owned two semi-tractors; he hired a driver for one and drove the other himself after school, mostly hauling bedding material for chicken farmers.
About 25 years later, he sold his company to someone who had repeatedly asked to buy the business. The company employed 45 people and operated about 30-35 trucks when he sold it in 1999.
At the time of the sale, the company was devoted to hauling bedding material for poultry farmers. Edwin bought dry wood shavings from lumber companies and other businesses and hauled the material to chicken houses. The poultry industry is “huge” in Arkansas, Melanie acknowledged.
Edwin essentially retired after selling the business and turned to racing cars in the Hava Tampa Late Model series and later the MARS series. He drove in races throughout the U.S., including Texas, Florida, Maryland, Wisconsin and states in between.
Edwin had financed a portion of the sale price himself, and in 2003 the new owner stopped making payments. “We had to go back to work,” recalled Melanie.
In February 2004 they began rebuilding the business from scratch. They had no equipment, but they did have the original business property. (Under the terms of the sale, Edwin leased the property to the new owner, and the lease was canceled when the new owner stopped payment under the sales agreement.)
The couple initially was disappointed when the new owner failed to make its financial obligations, and other businesses were impacted, too. “Obviously, we had expected to get that money,” said Melanie. “Having to start out from nothing again, that was difficult.”
“But when he got back into it, he was so happy,” said Melanie. “He didn’t know how much he had missed it. He was so excited to be back into building something from the ground up.”
When he started out the second time around, though, Edwin had a different vision for the business: smaller. “He told me he felt like we could make a living with 12 trucks,” said Melanie. “He didn’t want the headaches” associated with running a much larger company.
Within a month, however, Edwin already was up to a business that was operating 25 trucks. Now, the company operates about 70 trucks and employs nearly 100 people.
The company’s customers were not happy with the new ownership. “They were so dissatisfied,” said Melanie. “They wanted us back.” When they went back into business, “Word of mouth got out so fast that we were back in it. We have always been reputable, and these companies started coming back to us.”
“Another major change,” added Melanie, “was that we worked with – instead of against – one of our old competitors, Tony Childers. Edwin and Tony both grew up in the shaving business. It has been a fantastic relationship, and now we are close friends with Tony and his wife, Francine. That business and personal relationship has played an important part in our growth.”
ETW Enterprises is probably the largest business of its type in the state, she indicated, delivering about 50 trailer-loads of shavings and rice hulls daily to chicken and turkey farms and delivering loads of wood chips, boiler fuel and mulch. The company serves customers throughout Arkansas and parts of Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky; its biggest service areas are Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
ETW, which is a member of the Arkansas Poultry Federation, does business with some of the leading businesses in the poultry industry, such as Cargill, Butterball, Cobb Vantress and Tyson, as well as individual farmers.
One of the significant differences for Edwin’s business this time around is that he recently expanded into manufacturing operations to produce wood shavings. When he was first in business, the company purchased shavings from forest products businesses. Not having his own manufacturing capacity, however, left him at the mercy of the other businesses. If the lumber companies shut down or their business was slow, it affected his supply.
“We wanted to have more control of supply, and we wanted to have control of quality,” said Melanie. Having manufacturing capacity is “what separates us from other companies that do the same thing we do,” she explained.
ETW began operating a wood shavings plant, called Good Wood Inc., in Avoca in early July. Edwin bought two B&S shaving mills, a Webb burner and a dryer. Much of the equipment was bought at a defunct mill on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. Edwin took a crew of five men there and dismantled the machinery – a job that took two weeks in single-digit temperatures. They hauled it back and installed it in Avoca. He began buying pine logs and by early July had an inventory of about 5,000 logs. The Avoca plant has 30,000 square feet of storage space, and the company is adding more with the construction of the new building.
One thing that has helped the business run smoothly over the years has been the relationship with Hallco Industries, which manufactures moving floors for trailers. Edwin has been using them as a supplier for about 18 years, Melanie estimated.
ETW currently operates about 34 of the Hallco moving floor trailers. “Hallco, in our opinion, has the best product out there,” said Melanie.
Of equal or more importance, she added, is Hallco’s commitment to its customers. “They service their product,” she said.
She described their relationship with Charlie Russell, Hallco’s vice president for sales and marketing, and the first time they met him. A trailer had broken down late one night. “Charlie came out in the middle of the night to figure out what was wrong with that trailer,” she said. “He’s one of those people that, if there is a problem, he will make sure that it gets resolved. We know we can depend on him. Hallco is just a great customer service company.”
“That’s a key in any business,” she added.
ETW buys most trailers from ITI (Innovative Trailers Inc.) in Texarkana and chooses the kind of floor it wants installed. “They don’t even have to ask” what brand of moving floor they want in a new trailer, said Melanie. “It’s a Hallco floor.”
“The Hallco floor is dependable and fast unloading,” said Melanie. We can be unloaded in about 15 minutes, and that’s important whether we are at a farm or our storage facilities.”
Edwin is a down-in-the-trenches-type business owner, according to Melanie. “My husband is the most hands-on person you will meet in your life,” said Melanie. “Right now, he’s…working. He’s been building that Avoca plant…right alongside everybody else he hires. He works harder than anybody I know. A typical day starts at 4 a.m. and ends at 8 or 9 o’clock at night. He’s always worked hard as long as I’ve known him.”
Edwin has his priorities, though. “He takes the time to focus on our customer needs,” said Melanie. “He wants them to know what we can do for them, how we can make their business run more smoothly. I think of Edwin as the big problem solver. He has an uncanny ability to make everything work more efficiently.”
Scott Trafford is the company’s operations manager. “He makes this work…so my husband can go out and keep building these businesses,” said Melanie. Scott supervises logistics and is very vital to the company. “We really appreciate his dedication,” said Melanie.
“We also have a great staff of office and shop help,” she added. “I feel like we have raised several of these girls in this office. They’re great.”
Melanie handles a wide range of tasks and responsibilities for the business. “I do anything that anybody else doesn’t want to do,” she put it, such as insurance and regulatory matters.
Melanie and Edwin’s family includes three 28-year-old boys and a 26-year-old daughter – Joshua, Jonathan, Clint and Dixie. They have two granddaughters, Natalie and Abby. Joshua and Jonathan own their own trucks and drive for the company.
Edwin still enjoys racing in his spare time and competes in local races several times during the summer. The couple has a couple of vacation properties and enjoys spending time at them, including a condo at Texas Motor Speedway, and they enjoy taking trips with their granddaughters.
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