Forest Products Success Stories
vegetative cover for wildlife habitat and to improve overall appearance.
This spring a technologically advanced sawmill will replace the current mill to increase efficiency and production, as well as provide additional safety for employees. It is an investment in the future, which will no doubt include the fourth generation of the Petzoldt family.
In the 1920s, Jack Smith was a logger and tie hacker in southern Missouri. He eventually worked with Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps. He never owned a sawmill, but his connection with the Ozark forests was an influence on his son, Viandel V. Smith who, with Ralph Padgett, started a flooring mill in 1946 to take advantage of the home construction boom following World War II.
Smith bought out his partner in 1960 and continued to expand his hardwood flooring business at its current site on Highway 60 near Mountain View. He also started accumulating a land base, much of which is located adjacent to the upper Jacks Fork River. The flooring plant didn't include a sawmill, but bought cants and lumber from other sawmills in the area. (Cants are large timbers that can be resawn into boards.)
The flooring plant was somewhat unique in that it produced its own electricity with a wood-fueled boiler and steam generator. For efficiency it used a large band saw to resaw lumber and cants to the proper thickness for flooring stock. Bandsaws were not common in the Ozarks at that time. Wood was dried in kilns heated by burning the scrap from both the resaw and flooring operations. There was hardly any waste from the entire operation. Efficiency remains a top priority of the company today.
The third generation of Smiths officially took over the operation in 1975 when sons Van and Jon bought the business. Van currently serves as president and Jon is vice-president. They have continued to add new wood processing technology for efficiency, employee safety and minimal environmental impacts over the years. A modern wood waste fuel boiler system provides heat energy for drying 15-20 million board feet of lumber annually and, by means of a steam turbine, cogenerates much of the electrical energy needed to operate the flooring plant.
Van Smith says his company sells flooring from Long Island to Seattle. "We owe our success to the fact that a lot of people favor Missouri products. We grow the finest oak available. Our trees are slower growing and we have minerals in the soil that give the wood its color and uniqueness."
The company employs about 125 people to manufacture strip oak flooring from both red oak and white oak, generating over 10 million dollars for the local economy. They operate manufacturing facilities in both Winona and Mountain View, in addition to a retail store in Springfield. Their flooring is in homes and businesses throughout the country.
Smith Flooring is known for its support of the local communities. Jon Smith spoke with pride about their involvement in a program called Partners In Education. "We assist with fulfilling special needs of local schools, and the students help us in our community outreach efforts. For example, students have designed and distributed fire prevention posters and help with tree planting on public property," Jon says.
Smith Flooring also actively promotes good resource management. Their 14,000 acres of land has been in the American Tree Farm Program for nearly 35 years. Annually they plant about 30,000 trees and apply timber stand improvement practices where they are needed. Several bank stabilization projects were completed in cooperation with the Conservation Department on the upper Jacks Fork River.
The history and future of Ozark forests and rivers are important to Smith Flooring Company, and they wish to continue the rich legacy that provides their company its raw material and people. Jon was recently elected a Trustee of the Missouri Forest Heritage Center, a future visitor center and demonstration area near Winona.
"We are supporting the Center," Jon said, "because our company has been part of the forest heritage for 50 years, and we would like to help continue that story for another 50."