Case Studies

Anderson-Tully Lumber Company: Hard-working Hardwood Producers

  • Written by: Anderson-Tully Lumber Company: Hard-working Hardwood Producers
  • Produced by: Anderson-Tully Lumber Company: Hard-working Hardwood Producers

Anderson-Tully Lumber Company (ATCO), represented by Anderson-Tully Worldwide, is coming up on 125 years of business. Founded in 1889 as a manufacturer of boxes, baskets and vegetable crates, ATCO is now a global provider of a wide selection of southern hardwood lumber.

Christopher Tully founded ATCO in Benton Harbor, Mich. The location was ideal for crate and box manufacturing, but as the company evolved into a leading provider of hardwood lumber, location had to be reconsidered. Tully relocated ATCO at a crossroad of railroad and river traffic on the banks of the Mississippi River in Vicksburg, Miss.

ATCO became one of the largest hardwood producers in the country during the 1900s. The company’s new location coupled with the rich loess soils of the Mississippi river banks is now the foundation of ATCO’s business. The area is fertile and ideal for long growing seasons, allowing ATCO to grow and harvest a wide variety of hardwoods unmatched by any other lumber company in the world. ATCO is also one of the very few companies able to cut timber on a sustained yield basis on company-owned land.

As business grew, the company expanded facilities to include: two double-band sawmills, 28 dry kilns, a planer mill and a four-position inspection facility and 80-bay sorter. In 2006 ATCO was acquired by The Forestland Group, a timber investment management operation with land holdings in excess of 1 million acres, to focus on investing in naturally regenerating hardwood timberland. By 2008 additional hardwood assets had been acquired. ATCO now has 350,000 acres of timberland, all of which is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and produces approximately 45 million feet of lumber annually.

Studying the Consumer

Buddy Irby, vice president of sales for ATCO, joined the company 35 years ago with a background in industrial management. He explains Anderson-Tully Worldwide has become the sales and marketing agent for not only ATCO, but also Louisiana Hardwood Products and Yalbac Ranch and Cattle Corporation.

“All we do is hardwood lumber,” says Irby. “Most of our timber is what we refer to as Mississippi River species, which include: ash, basswood, cottonwood, hackberry, the oaks, poplar, pecan, sycamore, willow and cypress.” The company also imports tropical hardwoods from forests in Belize, which include: genuine mahogany, santa maria, cabbage bark and three other similar species. “Though the bulk of our production is rough sawn lumber, we offer a variety of width-sorted products, as well as rail ties and industrial timbers,” Irby continues.

According to Irby, approximately 60 percent of ATCO’s business is in exports. After the lumber is processed, it is generally sold to two different market segments. “It’s either sold to distributors or secondary manufacturers,” explains Irby. “Distributors will then sell to smaller factories that may only need limited quantities for specific jobs.” Secondary manufacturers include furniture, flooring, caskets, boat paddles and a wide variety of household case goods.

Breaking into international business hasn’t always been easy for ATCO. “The Asian and European marketplaces have been good for us, but it’s challenging to establish a foothold with companies that have always used strictly traditional species such as oak and poplar,” says Irby. “It takes extra effort to convince potential buyers to experiment with our alternative species that offer quality and aesthetics at a lower cost.”

Maintaining Tradition

ATCO has nearly 200 employees, Irby reports, with additional staff in other divisions of Anderson-Tully Worldwide. Many members of the ATCO team have been with the company for decades, as has Irby. “We take pride in the fact that our average tenure per employee is just over 25 years,” says Irby.

While ATCO continues to search for new blood to bring into the business, the company is continually looking for new opportunities, as well. Irby foresees growth in the future and is always looking for new niche markets and alternative uses for the hardwood species Anderson-Tully Lumber Company produces.

Published on: May 15, 2013

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