Straight from the Top – LEWIS LUMBER

STRAIGHT FROM THE TOP – Conversations with Local Leaders




Jarred Heuer and Jess Funk of the CCEDC had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Tom Edwards from Lewis Lumber and Milling to talk about their new facility moving into the old Sealy factory in Strattanville in 2022.

What does your company do? What type of products do you manufacture?

Tom: We are a secondary wood manufacturer and that means we buy green lumber from local sawmills, stack it, put it in dry kilns (large ovens) to dry the wood and then process it. During this process we take it from a rough piece of wood into kind of an intermediate stage. Then that wood can be made into a finished product. Our finished products consist of wide-plank flooring and cabinet moldings.

Jarred: So it comes in green and goes all the way through Lewis Lumber to become a finished product?

Tom: Yes and there are a lot of machines that are involved. There are machines that separate the green bundles of lumber, a scanner to measure length and width of each piece of lumber, high tech saws to cut the pieces of wood, kilns to dry the wood out. Everything is state of the art.
Who uses your products?

Tom: Ultimately our products end up in the consumer’s houses. We have several large cabinet manufacturers that consume our products. The flooring we makes goes to a distributor and thenthe distributor sells it to the contractors. Some distributors do sell directly to the consumer but most sell to a contractor or flooring installation professional.

Jess: So you don’t ever sell directly to the consumer?

Tom: No we sell only to distributors which are located all over the US.
How long has Lewis Lumber been around? Where are you headquartered? How many other locations?

Tom: Lewis Lumber got started in 2011 and we are based out of the Nashville area in a town called Dickson, Tennessee. It is currently our only location.

Jarred: So Clarion County will be your second location?

Tom: That’s right.

Why did you choose Strattanville?
Tom: So, we chose Strattanville because we wanted to be north of I-80 and we wanted to either bein Pennsylvania or New York. The reason it needed to be in that area is because of the makeup of the forest. The species of trees and their population is completely different up here than it is back in Tennessee. In the south, we probably have 30 different species of red oak. Up here the primary species of red oak is the northern red oak which is what we need for our product lines. This is important because of the color. We produce a higher end product, and our customers want the wood to look the same from one piece to the next. The only way to accomplish that is to source materials where you are pulling from the same species.

We also picked this area because there is a higher density of hard maple. Down in Tennessee where we are at the density is very low. Right now, at our Tennessee location, we source hard maple from as far as 400 miles which is unheard of in the lumber business.

We looked at a lot of different places in both states, but we had certain requirements for whatever it was that we were going to buy. We needed a good-sized building and 50 acres or more for additional buildings and storage. We had trouble finding places that had everything we needed until we came across the old Sealy building. The building will require a lot of work to get it ready and we have already started that work. There’s a lot of repairs and infrastructure work that needs to be done before we can move in. We will be building several buildings to the east of the main structure for stacking and drying the wood .

What ways will Strattanville residents be impacted by production? (Noise, traffic, etc.)
Tom: I don’t think residents will see any impact from production.

Jarred: I think the activity would excite a lot of folks because they want to see business in their hometown.

Tom: I’m nearly positive that there will be less traffic at the site then there was when Tarkett was using the building. The only reason I say that is for every truckload of green lumber that comes in, we can manufacture about half of a truckload of finished product to go out.

Jess: The good thing is you guys are right on Route 322 and don’t have to pass through any major residential, quiet areas.
Tom: So, there will be about 30 truckloads a week or 8 trucks a day coming in which means about4 trucks a day going out. It’s not going to be some massive interchange with hundreds of trucks coming in and out.

How many jobs do you hope to create?
Tom: I’m hoping to have 80-100 jobs eventually. Right off the bat we will probably have 60.

Jarred: That is considerable to start.

Tom: We are hoping that we will be able to grow the business and add people. Down in Tennessee we’ve got 80 right now and could use another 10.

Jess: Are these mostly going to be production jobs?

Tom: There is going to be a wide range of people and skills that will be needed. We will need lumber handlers, forklift drivers, shipping personnel, molder operators, employees to grade the flooring, machine operators, maintenance and a few management positions.
What does a day in the life look like for your employees?

Tom: I’m not quite sure what that will be like up here yet. Back in Tennessee we work 6am-4:30pmMonday through Thursday and then we work on Friday with a select group of people who want to work. Parts of our business work more than others but I hope that we are efficient enough up hereto either work five 8-hour days or four 10-hour days. There is always something to do. We have some employees that work five-10-hour days and will do maintenance work, mow the grass or cleaning. There will always be work for those willing to do it. I want our business to be attractive to local employees. You want people to come and work for you as an employer. We spend more time at work than we do at home so its important for you to enjoy the job you are doing.

Thank you to Tom Edwards for sitting down with us and filling us in on Lewis Lumber and Milling’s new location in Strattanville!