Mill owners explain process

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ISLE OF WIGHT—Last week’s news that the former International Paper sawmill will be reopening under new ownership was welcome in the area.

Former sawmill employees Terry Godwin and Perk Taylor purchased the facility under the new company name Franklin Lumber LLC. The venture is expected to create 72 jobs when it opens later this year, with the possibility of more jobs in the future.

First some upgrades will be made to the facility. Asked this week what type of upgrades will be made to the sawmill, Procurement Manager Terry Godwin said, “We will be installing two gas boilers to generate steam for lumber drying. Also a gas line will need to be run for the boilers. This will be the longest lead time item.”

He continued, “Other upgrades include equipment on the log decks to speed up the bucking process. This is where the tree length logs get cut into various lengths.”

“There are some items inside the sawmill such as installing an electric drive system on one of the sawing lines that will speed us up as well. Of course the entire mill will be inspected so we know it is operational and safe,” he added.

Godwin explained his background. “I was with IP for 10 years and a portion of that time was as the log procurement manager for the mill. I have been in the forest industry for 19 year in Arkansas, Alabama, NC, and VA.”

“I have been working as a private forestry consultant for Gelbert, Fulbright, and Randolph (GFR) Forestry Consultants for the past seven years. GFR works with private landowners to advise them on timber sales and how best to manage their timber,” he continued.

His partner in the business, CEO Perk Taylor was an engineer at the mill when it was rebuilt in 1986.

“The mill hasn’t changed much since then,” said Godwin, “so he still knows it very well. He has a contracting business and a bark business providing planting medium for grow houses.”

Franklin Lumber will produce dimensional lumber for the retail, treating and truss manufactures as well as timbers for industrial uses and other specialty products.”

The diverse product line produced by Franklin Lumber will cater to different markets. Godwin explained, “The primary markets will be retail store (lumber yards, Lowes, etc.), truss manufactures that build roof trusses for new houses, Treaters that treat lumber for outdoor use, and Industrial customers that use larger timbers for industrial uses.”

“We will put an emphasis on making quality lumber similar to the way Union Camp did prior to the merger with IP. Many customers would specify Franklin Sawmill Lumber because they traditionally produced better lumber. We will try to make a similar product and hopefully gain back that tradition of quality,” he emphasized.

Continuing, Godwin explained, “Much of our products will be certified sustainable by either Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or the American Tree Farm Program.”

“These programs certify that the logs purchased are managed in a sustainable manner so that we can verify we leave the forest better than the way we found it. Many customers are beginning to ask about certified products. IP has been really helpful with bringing us up to speed on these programs. We can’t say enough about how helpful they have been. We are separate companies but they have taken us under their wing,” he maintained.

Continuing, Godwin stressed, “We will sell and deliver lumber anywhere but we believe the majority of our markets will be north of us. We look forward to getting back in touch with the old customer base.”

Godwin says the earliest the sawmill will start back up is October 1. “There are two items that will keep us from starting sooner. The longest lead time item will be installing the gas line. We have been working with Columbia Gas to expedite the construction of the gas line and they have been very helpful. The other item is our Title V Air Permit,” he explained.

“We have worked closely with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on our air permit application. The DEQ in Norfolk has been so much help on the application. They have been great to work with, very informative and very helpful,” concluded CEO Perk Taylor.

Franklin Lumber can be contacted at There will be no applications accepted at the sawmill. Applicants may apply at the Paul D. Camp Workforce Development Center beginning Aug. 30.