By Peggy Mackenzie
The sawmill in the small community of Smoot formally reopened their doors on Monday, Sept. 14, in a dedication ceremony hosted by the mill’s parent company, Allegheny Wood Products, Inc. (AWP).
AWP’s President John Crites II told the audience of more than 100 people the company is dedicated to Smoot and operating “this mill in this community.” The Smoot mill currently operates a single eight-hour shift with a total employment of 28 people.
The Smoot sawmill was acquired by AWP in September of last year after it had sustained major fire damage in December 2013. The blaze destroyed half of the production building where timber is cut and sorted. AWP evaluated the mill and the decision was made to completely rebuild the sawmill and convert it into a state-of-the-art facility. AWP invested approximately $3 million in all new equipment, in addition to the acquisition costs. The mill was one of three purchased from New River Hardwoods in Beckley.
By August 2015, the rebuilt facility was put into operation producing a “full range of products,” said Crites. With a zero waste policy, he said, every part of the tree is utilized. Logs are used to manufacture hardwood flooring and wood pallets. Wood chips are sent to paper manufacturing plants, the saw dust is collected and compressed into pellets used in pellet furnaces, and tree bark goes into landscaping materials. AWP also produces railroad ties and dry wood for cabinetry.
Crites said West Virginia is able to provide “an abundant, stable supply” of timber to the industry. Ten of AWP’s 12 facilities are located in small West Virginia communities, and from those communities AWP ships timber products to more than 30 countries worldwide.
Crites and his wife Patricia started the Riverton-based company more than 40 years ago with their life savings and borrowed money. Today, the annual sawmill production is estimated at 11 million board feet, and with so many good timber suppliers in the state, the company is looking at a long, successful future.
The guest speaker for the event was Congressman Evan Jenkins, R-WV, who received a round of applause from the audience, when he said, as the lead sponsor of a bill, he aims to erase the severance tax on timber. The timber industry, Jenkins said, is often overlooked in the Mountain State by coal and natural gas industries, but timber is in all 55 counties and creates jobs and helps local businesses survive.