Forest Products Success Stories

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

Missouri's present wood industry has literally "grown up" since the Depression years of the 1930s. Virtually none of the big timber companies, or little ones for that matter, that came to Missouri to harvest trees about the turn of the century are represented here today. When the big pine was depleted, almost all the big companies relocated to other areas of the country.

Many of the smaller, family owned businesses that stayed to harvest and process the remaining hardwood timber, didn't last long either. Lumbering was an extremely hard life during the first 30 years of this century and most people who got a taste of it eventually found something easier.

During the war years of the 1940s, markets for wood products, both hardwood and softwood, flourished. The potential to make a good living, even if the work was hard, attracted energetic individuals to sawmilling and other forms of wood processing. These were native Missourians for the most part and, while exploitation of the local forests may have been tempting, these folks generally wanted to stay in the local area and raise their families.

The "cut out and get out" philosophy of an earlier time was not predominant. This era was the beginning of many of our wood processing companies who still do business here today.

Of course, not all companies survived. For example, in 1946 there were over 2,500 sawmills in the state. Today there are about 400. Survival of the fittest is a natural law that applies to wood products companies, too. While many of the family-owned businesses have gotten bigger and process more wood than when they started, the usage has generally remained proportional to the forest resource within their reach.

In many areas of the state there is more forest acreage and volume of timber today than in the 1930s. In contrast to the extensive overcutting of timber at the turn of the century, sustainable use since that period has allowed the forests to rebuild and replenish. A dependable supply of raw material contributes to the success of every wood-using company in the state.

Here are accounts of a couple of successful wood products companies. They and scores of other wood processing industries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership for the last 60 years with thousands of private forest owners.

Marvin F. "Tommy" Petzoldt formed K&P Timber Company in 1937 with four other partners. He was familiar with the timber business from working with

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