Customers in Action

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods


May 08, 2015

Komatsu WA380-7: “fast, safe, comfortable, user-friendly and the cornerstone machine in our yard”

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods

Some of the nation’s best hardwood timber is located in the south, specifically Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Several species can be found, and for the past 20-plus years, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods has produced some of the finest-quality products from oak, poplar and other trees within about a 150-mile radius of the company’s home in Huntland, Tenn.

“We pride ourselves on attention to detail at every level, from the person sweeping the floor to myself,” said President/CEO Nordeck Thompson, who along with his wife, Mary Claire, founded the business in 1993. “We take great care to ensure our products are the straightest, flattest and meet our customers’ expectations. When they receive a product from us that’s going to be used to make whatever they manufacture, it has to be right. Because we consistently deliver quality materials, our reputation is as solid as the wood we work with.”

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods mainly processes six species of hardwood, including red and white oak, poplar, ash, walnut, cherry and hard maple. It also deals with cypress and manufactures several different products, such as green-on-lathe and kiln-dried lumber, logs, ties, chips, sawdust and mulch.

Large percentage exported

In early 2000, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods built its first kiln and began producing dried product. Twelve years later, it tripled production of dried kiln products and doubled its employment roster, after purchasing another company.

“We manufacture a wide variety of products that are shipped out both domestically and internationally, and every bit of timber that comes into our yard is used in some way,” said Thompson’s daughter Claire T. Getty, who is Chief Financial Officer. “We export 60 to 65 percent of our products, and we’ve found that each product serves a certain market well. For example, oak is popular in the Middle East, and ash sells very well in the United Kingdom. Domestically, poplar is in demand. Chips, sawdust and mulch are generally sold locally. Nothing goes to waste.”

Services include custom sorting, milling and sawing; shipping and export preparation; and timber harvesting. Timber is sourced from loggers, tree sellers, landowners and from land that Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods buys and contracts to have logged.

Strong family business

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods

Thompson learned logging while working at his father’s sawmill in Hazelhurst, Ga. Throughout the past two decades, he’s passed the same lessons he learned about lumber production down to the next generation in the strong family business. In addition to Getty, Thompson’s son Nick is Chief Operating Officer.

Thompson’s daughter Laura Ann T. Howell is Vice President of sister company Thompson Transport and his daughter Mary Lee T. McConnell recently joined Thompson Appalachian as Human Resources Manager. Mary Lee’s husband, Rob, works for the company, as does Claire’s husband, Drew. Other family members include cousin William Faircloth and uncle David Pruett. Additional key members of the staff are Vice President of Sales Todd Nelson, Procurement Manager Sam Terry and Sawmill Manager K.C. Cardines.

“We consider everyone a member of the family,” said Howell. “Some of the staff have been here 20 years or more, and they are certainly key to the company’s success. Everyone is passionate about producing the highest-quality products in the industry. I believe that’s why our products remain in demand and our markets have expanded greatly during the past 20-plus years.”

Komatsu WA380-7 is the “cornerstone machine”

About a year ago, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods added a Komatsu WA380-7 hydrostatic wheel loader equipped with a Rockland sorting grapple. The company worked with Power Equipment Company Territory Manager Heath Smith on the purchase.

“Heath and I worked together very closely to set up that machine specifically for our needs, and it works extremely well,” said Thompson, noting that the 191-horsepower WA380-7 is the highest-horsepower machine he’s ever owned. “We can unload tree-length logs from a truck in four passes, and we make fewer trips from the log decks to load the mill. It’s fast, safe, comfortable, user-friendly and the cornerstone machine in our yard.”

Thompson also appreciates the service Power Equipment offers. “This is the first large piece of equipment we have purchased from Power, but we have a long relationship. Heath and Power did an excellent job of ensuring the Komatsu loader was an exact fit for us. The fact that they cover routine scheduled maintenance for the first 2,000 hours or three years through the Komatsu CARE program is an added bonus.”

Expanding capacity

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods

This year, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods will bring three new dry kilns online. It recently began hauling its own logs and lumber, as well as third-party materials, through the newly formed sister company, Thompson Transport, LLC, which has 11 units.

“Our goal is not necessarily to expand our footprint, but to continue taking care of our customers by expanding what we already offer,” said Getty. “We’re not looking to be the biggest company out there. We simply want to offer the highest-quality products available.”

Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods also works to raise awareness of the timber industry and what it offers. It often hosts tours of its facility, and it works closely with area colleges that have forestry programs.

“It’s a way for us to give back for all the blessings we’ve received,” said Howell. “By working with the forestry programs, students get a good idea of what an operation such as ours does and how we focus on sustainability and use every bit of a log that comes to us. A lot of the people that come through here also have no idea where the materials come from that are in their homes and businesses, and we appreciate the chance to educate them and give them a better idea of what it takes to produce those materials. We really enjoy it.”