M.V.A. Enterprises

A DECISION TO START A LOGGING BUSINESS IN THE UPPER PENINSULA PAYS OFF FOR THIS MICHIGAN FIRM

Feb 20, 2014

Komatsu forestry machines - fast, reliable, user-friendly, and fuel efficient

In 1981, Mark Anderson was a young father with two children and a third on the way. The iron ore mine where he was employed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula shut down, and few job opportunities existed in the U.P. at the time.

“The mine closed during a serious recession,” Anderson noted. “I had to provide for my family, but I didn’t want to move. Some paper mills were being built in the region, which was about the only thing happening economically at the time, so I decided to try my hand at logging. I knew I would either sink or swim, and sinking wasn’t much of an option.”

Although Mark didn’t have a background in logging, he had grown up in the woods and loved them. He figured he could learn what he needed to know and make it work – and that’s exactly what happened.

“I started out with a power saw and a small crawler loader,” he recalled. “After a couple years, I bought a used forwarder. The payments were $621/month, which was huge to me at the time. For awhile, I thought we might starve, but gradually, I got more jobs and things worked out.”

Today, M.V.A. Enterprises manages forests and harvests timber in about half a dozen counties in the east-central U.P., all within about 60-miles of the company’s headquarters in Felch, Mich. M.V.A. was one of the first companies to be certified as a Michigan Master Logger, and it remains one of less than two dozen firms to hold the certification.

“We emphasize honesty, integrity and quality,” said Anderson. “We work hard to give landowners exactly what they want. If they want us to leave wildlife cover, a stand or a food plot for animals, that’s what we do. We also do what’s best for the forest because that’s our livelihood. We’re in this for the long term, so we harvest responsibly. We want to be invited back, and when we do come back, we will need something to log.”

Keeping it in the family

Although Mark Anderson started M.V.A. by himself, it’s now a true family business. His wife, Tina, keeps the books. His three sons, Steve, David and James, and son-in-law Chad Hord all own their own harvesters and are sub-contractors to M.V.A.

“I sold my new harvesters to my sons and Chad so they can operate their own companies and share the gain, or pain, of owning a business,” said Mark. “It forces them to figure out their own costs and time management and how to make everything work.”

“From about age 9 and up, my brothers and I worked summers for M.V.A.,” said David. “It was hard work, but I enjoyed it and took pride in it. We learned a lot from our dad, including going to work to accomplish something, not just to get paid. We also learned to be fair and honest and always treat people right because any money you make by treating people badly or being dishonest stains your reputation, which is something you can never get back.”

In addition to family, Anderson has several employee operators at M.V.A.

“All told, we have seven harvesting crews. My guys are experienced, trustworthy and share our work ethic. I have total faith and confidence in their ability to do what needs to be done and to represent the company well, whether I’m around or not.”

Komatsu Forest Equipment

M.V.A. and the second generation owners have seven harvesters and three forwarders – mostly Komatsu Forest or Valmet/Timbco products (Valmet and Timbco were acquired by Komatsu Forest in 2004 and have been manufactured under the Komatsu name since 2011).

“We’ve run Valmet, Timbco and Komatsu Forest products exclusively for many years,” said Anderson. “I like the speed. I like the reliability. I like that they’re user-friendly and last a long time. Fuel economy has also improved significantly throughout the years.”

In addition to the forestry machines, M.V.A. and family also owns two Komatsu D39 dozers and a Komatsu PC160 excavator for stumping, road building and constructing food plots.

“Komatsu construction and forestry products are excellent, but the relationship we have with Roland Machinery and its predecessor, Bark River Culvert, is also crucial to our success,” said Anderson. “Our Roland Sales Rep Brad Jackson gets us what we need when we need it, and the customer service from the Escanaba branch is excellent. From the beginning, they’ve always treated us well. Roland runs its business the same way we run ours – with integrity.”

Mills are calling

The soft economy in recent years has limited wood product demand from sawmills, but Anderson says things are picking up. “Right now, the mills are constantly calling and looking for material, and they want it immediately, so I’m fairly optimistic about the future.”

Anderson is also pleased with the decision he made more than 30 years ago to start M.V.A. “We’ve made a good living, and to be able to do it with my sons is about as good as it gets. Moving forward, I’ll probably turn more of the business over to them. I’m confident in their abilities. They all understand what it takes – work hard, smart and honorably. Do those things routinely, and you stand a very good chance of being successful in any business.”