- Northwoods loggers describe business right now as great. KLP Logging and Trucking Owner Kevin Kramer says it's a golden time to get into the business. The Laona business owner says timber prices are high, so is demand, but he's facing issues getting logs to the mills.
Some loggers can't find enough trucks to get their logs from the Northwoods to paper mills. Kramer would love more trucks in the area.
He believes it started in the early 2000s. Kramer says a number of trucks went to the southern U.S. to cash in, and clean up hurricane damage. He says many didn't return.
Slower demand following the recession in the late 2000s also hurt supply.
"Then that forces guys, that are borderline that aren't really (in good shape) and working on the edge, you know all of a sudden it slows down and they can't make it so they have to get out of the business," Kramer said.
KLP Logging and Trucking in Laona made it through that. The company runs seven trucks. Kramer says truckers have been getting better pay for transporting logs, but an increase could help.
"I think the rates could come up on trucking a little bit," Kramer said. "They have come up over the past like three years, trucking rates have come up which has helped, but they still could come up a little more."
Bobby Connor is a co-owner of Connor Forest Management in Forest County. Earlier this month, he said he was about four or five weeks behind in hauling.
"You got to find more trucks and crews, and it is just really hard to do right now," Connor said. "There are not a lot of people around willing to do it."
Some groups are setting up satellite log yards to help. The yards shorten the distance, and time, local trucks need to haul wood.
"I have one down here at Nicolet, there is probably 2000 cords of wood down here for NewPage. The whole reason their doing this is because NewPage is 130 miles from Laona. Well I don't have time to truck every load of wood 130 miles."
The mills can then pick up the logs themselves when they need them, but more trucks would still help.
Kramer says start-ups and young entrepreneurs could help. He adds that an increased harvest levels in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest would also help create more incentive. But upfront costs to get today's tools may be too expensive.
"How many young people have the financial capability of taking a loan out or going out and buying something that's worth $250,000?" Kramer said. "You know, when they go to the bank, they are going to have to have one big pile of money down, especially on a new business venture."
A new truck alone can cost more than $200,000. That doesn't include the cost of acquiring other equipment needed to log in the 21st century.
Kramer also says stumpage prices, the price for the right to harvest timber on certain piece of land, are high. Loggers normally don't get paid on their wood until they get it to the mill, so the high stumpage cost adds more upfront cost, and risk, on land sales.
However, many existing loggers are doing well thanks to record high timber prices and high demand, but they worry what might happen if a mill closes because it runs out of its surplus of wood.