Former Employees Who Purchased Closed Virginia Sawmill Find Success by Focusing on Quality – Franklin Lumber: Focusing on grade lumber and high quality production, former employees purchase and restart Virginia sawmill. New owners explain the process of reopening an idle facility.

When a sawmill that had been run by International Paper (IP) sat empty in Isle of Wight County, Virginia after being shut down in the summer of 2009, several men who had been associated with the mill at different times saw an opportunity that was too good not to pursue.

Almost two years since the mill reopened in late 2013, former employees are now owners and partners in Franklin Lumber. The facility today produces about 60 million board feet of lumber annually and focuses heavily on producing a quality grain. The majority of the lumber, which is all produced from southern yellow pine, is made to be shown off on decks and other treated surfaces. So the grain is important and that’s why 85% of the lumber the mill produces is Grade 2 and better.

In addition to being successful, leaders of Franklin Lumber have also found the satisfaction that comes from owning their own mill, in knowing that they’ve put jobs back into the community and are carrying forth a long-time tradition. There’s been a working sawmill on the 14-acre site of this mill since 1887.

The Camp family first built a large forest resources company on the property, and then in 1999 Union Camp merged with IP and continued the sawmill and paper mill operations until 2009, when the sawmill was closed.

“It’s definitely different. It’s definitely more enjoyable,” said co-owner Carl Buck, of owning and running a business. “I guess the best thing about it is that we don’t have all the hierarchy.” With large companies there can be layers of management, sometimes these managers are offsite far away in another state. This distance can add to the time it takes to get things done to the detriment of the business, he explained.