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McShan Lumber Company Inc.: Producing Quality Lumber
The McShan family has constructed an international legacy in the lumber business. It all began in 1907, when Nathan McShan founded McShan Lumber Company Inc. (MLC) in the town named after his family: McShan, Ala. Over the past 105 years, the McShan family has carried on Nathan’s passion through MLC’s success.
“Nathan had a steam-powered cotton gin,” says Mark Junkins, current sales manager of MLC. “Ginning was seasonal business, so he built a sawmill and started producing lumber.” The business grew steadily, processing locally sourced logs that had to be pulled by oxen and mules.
Nearly two decades after MLC opened its doors the family purchased the nearby Melrose Plantation, the site of a second sawmill. MLC continues to operate from the site today, and the McShan family still occupies the original Melrose house as well.
Junkins is proud to note that MLC is still family-owned and -operated. “It makes us more flexible,” he explains. “We’re able to change and adapt when necessary. The third, fourth and fifth generations of the family are now involved.” And Junkins, who grew up half-of-a-mile down the road from the mill, has now been with MLC for 26 years.
“I worked here during my summers in high school,” says Junkins. “I went to college for agriculture, joined the Navy and worked as a diving officer for six years. Then, I came home and started selling lumber.”
Networks of Success
Hunter McShan, president of MLC, oversees a staff of 55 who specialize in the processing and sales of Southern Pine lumber. According to Junkins, the talented team at MLC is credited to the company’s continued growth over the last few decades. MLC has also managed to expand its customer base internationally while maintaining a medium size, enabling the company to value partners, customers and employees alike.
The driving force behind MLC’s growth is relationships. The McShan family continues to build a team of experienced mill workers and service people who value customers and heritage.
MLC is also a member of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA), a network that has been a great tool in building the family legacy. “We’ve been part of NAWLA for 25 years,” explains Junkins. “We’ve really taken advantage of networking opportunities through the organization. We’ve built strong relationships with other NAWLA members, and we can utilize NAWLA’s high-quality educational programs.”
Through networking efforts, MLC has established a global presence with markets on five continents. “We still value the domestic market, but we’re also doing a lot of business in the Caribbean, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia,” says Junkins. “About 60 percent of our revenue comes from export sales. The only continents we haven’t yet shipped to are Australia and Antarctica.”
Such an expansive reach is possible due to MLC’s ability to produce a wide range of lumber with capabilities unmatched by many regional sawmills. “We produce flooring and pattern stock, beaded ceiling, V-groove paneling dressed boards and more,” says Junkins. “Our export sales present different hurdles, but we’ve learned how to do it.”
The confidence of the MLC is well earned, though the company remains humble through its continued successes. “We’ve learned a lot through our international business,” says Junkins. “We even load the containers.” Though new horizons have also brought challenges to MLC, they have ultimately provided opportunities to grow and forced the company to improve.
The challenges were manageable for the organized and experienced staff at MLC. “We overcome our obstacles,” says Junkins. “The economy has been rough, but being family owned, we can diversify. Moving internationally was a big leap. We’ve made a lot of product changes to fit our markets.”
The changes will continue as the company continues to expand geographically. “Within the next few years we’d like to be known as the primary producer of high-quality, Southern Pine boards,” says Junkins. “We’re working to sell more here at home. That means a better economy for our region and the country.”
International growth has been a major factor in the business’ expansion, but has come out of necessity with the decline in the U.S. economy. Junkins sees things starting to turn around with more new construction on the home front.
MLC embraces local heritage and, as the company succeeds, Junkins and his team hope to see their neighbors succeed as well. Part of that effort is ensuring the continuation of a sustainable lumber industry. Therefore, MLC is a certified member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). SFI requires industry members to practice green business, offering educational resources and audits to keep businesses on track with best forestry and processing practices. The company is a great fit for the initiative, as MLC recognizes that the lumber business makes up the majority of the region’s economy. The team at MLC strives to do its part by ensuring well-managed forests and sourcing from responsible operations.
The chain of command is smaller at MLC than at larger companies, allowing for flexibility and innovation. “We can make decisions faster,” explains Junkins. The family-owned and -operated business is constantly evolving but will always embrace its sawmilling heritage. McShan Lumber Company Inc. is an international legacy and will continue to support the local industry while offering solid, sustainable wood products suitable for worldwide distribution.