Anthony Forest Fights On

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, May. 21, 2012 12:00 am  

The Great Recession officially may have been over for a few years, but for lumber companies like Anthony Forest Products it lingers, wrestled into something like submission by the firm's adoption of technology, dedication to quality and simple grit.

(Click here for a list of the largest private companies in southwest Arkansas.)

"We're on the bottom, but at least we aren't looking for a new bottom at the moment," Aubra Anthony, president and CEO, said at his company's headquarters in El Dorado.

The company, which makes lumber and engineered wood products, reported $95.4 million in revenue during its fiscal 2011, which ended more than a year ago, on April 30. As for fiscal 2012, ended April 30, preliminary estimates have revenue at $90.2 million, Anthony said.

The company that employed 450 before the housing crash of 2006 now has, depending on seasons and shifts, 231 workers.

As a supplier to the construction industry, Anthony Forest has been hit hard by the housing bust. Housing starts peaked in 2005 at more than 2 million a year, fell off a cliff to about 600,000 in 2009 and 2010 and in April were at an annual rate of 717,000. "Our sales are basically half of what they were," Anthony said. "So we haven't fallen as far as the market, which is the comfort you get of being a survivor."

He says the words with a kind of grim satisfaction, taking solace where he can.

Consumer spending, Anthony said, has returned to 2007 levels, though "most people don't know that." The laggard in the United States' slowly improving economy remains construction. And that, "if it were back anywhere to normal, would add 4 percent to the gross domestic product and things would be rolling again," he said.

But when you've been part of the community and state as long as Anthony Forest Products - various Anthony family members have been in the timber and forest products industry in south Arkansas, eastern Texas and northern Louisiana for more than a century - you take your role seriously, and the biggest part of that role is just surviving so you can continue to provide jobs.

Anthony Forest Products operates a mill in Urbana, about 15 miles southeast of El Dorado, producing Southern pine lumber; wood chip mills in Plain Dealing, La., and Troup, Texas; an engineered wood laminating plant in El Dorado; and a laminating plant in Washington, Ga. It also is in a joint venture in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with Eacom Timber Corp. of Montreal to produce wood I-joists, branded as Power Joists.

A 2010 fire at the company's sawmill in Atlanta, Texas, led to its shutdown and the loss of 78 jobs.

Anthony Forest Products, however, is focusing its latest efforts on a $25 million expansion and modernization of its planar mill in Urbana, which employs 75.
Kerlin Drake, vice president of marketing for Anthony Forest Products Co., recently told Arkansas Business that the improvements would raise productivity by 50 percent and efficiency - recovering more lumber from a log - by 5 to 10 percent.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.