Young Loggers Buck the Trend, Grow Business
Entrepreneurs Will and Wes Coleman are doubling harvesting capacity in an industry seeing fewer young workers.
Logging crews are aging, and struggling to attract young people to the profession. Even NPR has picked up the story, reporting on June 16th about the looming shortage of loggers in the American workforce. But not all the news is bad.
Enter Will (26) and Wesley (24) Coleman of Richburg, SC. This entrepreneurial duo are not only logging, but are growing their own new business. They formed Coleman Brothers Logging, LLC in December 2012 along with a third owner, Katherine Suaso. Together, they have been steadily increasing their pulpwood and saw timber harvesting in and around Chester County, which is used in everyday products like paper and furniture.
The company has had lots of help from Ideal Logging, Inc., which provides Coleman Brothers with a steady supply of tracts requiring first thinings or final harvesting. Ideal’s Tommy Barnes, a Board member of the South Carolina Timber Producers Association, has been a mentor and a source of encouragement to Will and Wesley, who got their start working for Tommy and his business partner, David Cox, at Ideal.
“They’re hard-working guys,” says Tommy Barnes, who himself started his business in his late 20s. “I’ve known them all their lives, and you don’t find many young people who are dedicated to logging. They deserve a chance.”
In June, Coleman Brothers Logging was able to purchase a used TigerCat skidder and feller/buncher with a loan from Natural Capital Investment Fund’s Logging Initiative.
“Running the equipment we purchased with the NCIF loan, we doubled our loads in the first week,” says Will Coleman. “We really appreciate the chance to show we can make it on our own.”
Rick Larson, Senior Vice President for NCIF, is confident that the financing provided will help the company move to the next level. “They convinced us this new equipment will help them work more profitably. And, the fact that Ideal stands behind them is extremely important.”
NCIF launched its Logging Initiative with support from CEI, a leading Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, two organizations that share NCIF’s commitment to the forest products industry and loggers in particular. The job creating and sustainability aspects of this work made it an ideal recipient of New Markets Tax Credit financing. The program funds equipment purchases by existing certified loggers who can’t raise all the financing they need from traditional sources.
Well-equipped, responsible loggers are essential for healthy forests and a healthy forest products industry. “The opportunity is there for young hard-working loggers to grow a business and, with the right help, they will succeed,” says Larson.