Clay Crosby started buying wood while he was in college—mostly small tracts with big timber During his last semester of school, he bought a chain saw, a $5000 loader, $3800 skidder and he paid $3000 for a truck and trailer. He and a friend were the only employees. Crosby cut the wood with the chain saw, his friend moved it to the landing with a cable skidder and then Crosby loaded it on the truck. They were producing about three loads per day.
That escalated to some better equipment and within four years Crosby had four company crews and a contract crew. Crosby was buying the wood for all five crews and running the loader for one of them every day. He did that for several years and then sold out of logging and focused on buying timber. In 2009 he formed Twin Rivers Land & Timber (TRLT) with his business partner, Dennis Rich.
When Crosby started TRLT he knew he was taking a big risk. The economy was bad and biomass markets weren’t substantial. He started off with only one contract crew producing roughly 30 loads of logs a week. In retrospect, Crosby says he should’ve been more hesitant when he started TRLT, “but I was too ignorant to know any better and I didn’t know how to do anything else. I made $12,000 my first year and it was a big struggle. But it has worked out well.”
Indeed it has. Today Crosby has 15 company and contract crews that are producing more than 900 loads of chips a week.
Ocmulgee Biomass, a sister company of TRLT owned by Crosby and brothers Jeff and John Hair, strictly owns the chippers and chip vans while TRLT is the timber company that owns the contracts to cut and deliver the wood.
TRLT has been a much-needed addition to the Georgia wood products scene because of the struggling longwood markets around the state. “I take a treelength logger and I provide the chipper and the vans for them to load,” Crosby explains. “I pay them a logging rate and deduct my rent on the chipper and that has worked well so far.”
TRLT began chipping in May of 2011. The first place they hauled chips to was Macon Graphic Packaging where there was a need for boiler fuel. “It just kind of went from there and as other markets started to pop up, people knew we were in the chipping business so they would call us,” Crosby explains. “I’ve been in the wood products business for 17 years and in my experience if you’ve got the markets you can put the rest of it together.”
Crosby has crews scattered from Macon to Columbus to Waycross and his experience as a timber buyer gives him an edge and he knows exactly what to look for in a good tract. Clay’s brother, Kyle, works as a timber buyer mostly in the Waycross area, Tom Tuggle works the Macon area and Chuck Allen works the Columbus area. As of April the company had more than 5 million tons in inventory around middle and south Georgia.
Crosby’s wife, Ashley, does all of the paperwork and keeps all the books, a tough job when you consider all of the moving parts involved with Ocmulgee Biomass, TRLT and their other subsidiaries.
TRLT’s primary markets are the Georgia Biomass industrial wood pellet plant in Waycross and the new Exelon- Albany Green Energy 50 MW biomass power plant in Albany. It provides steam for a Procter & Gamble plant and generates electricity for Georgia Power.
Crosby believes his company is helping out the logging industry in Georgia. “I think it’s doing a service to this region and the logging industry,” he says. “There are too many people treelength logging now and that’s why everybody’s on quota. The more of them I can provide an alternative market to, the more room it makes for the ones that are left to haul the wood they’re hauling.”
Most of TRLT’s crews are four man crews that haul around 60 loads of fuel chips a week. He has one “super crew” that moves roughly 150 loads a week. By the end of May they were up to nearly 1,000 loads a week. Expected production in 2017 from all of the company and contract chipping crews is more than 1 million tons. All of the company’s chippers are Morbark 40/36’s. These include micro chippers and drum chippers. Crosby estimates he has about $6 million invested in TRLT and Ocmulgee Biomass. Ocmulgee Biomass’ equipment dealer is Tidewater out of Thomasville, Ga.
Article originally posted at woodbioenergymagazine.com