Bradford residents are going to start seeing the name Bradford Forest Products again.
Rossi Group and The Lyme Timber Co. LP have purchased the local sawmill from Danzer, and they plan to operate under the former name, Bradford Forest Products.
The sawmill has been called Danzer Lumber North American since 2018.
The sale closed Thursday and the new owners have taken over operations, according to Lyme CEO Jim Hourdequin.
The two companies have acquired the sawmill, kilns and related assets in the joint venture.
However, they will continue to use the local team to run the mill.
In addition to retaining almost all of the employees — including general manager Steve Bukowski — more will be hired.
“The plan is to return the mill to its full production capacity,” said Hourdequin. “Like most sawmills in the region, the Bradford plant experienced real hardship during the trade war with China. As a result, they reduced production to about half capacity.”
He noted that some Danzer employees had been laid off due to the reduced production. It is the new owners’ intention to rehire some of those laid-off employees, as well as to hire some new ones.
“We’re just very excited to return the mill to its full potential. The creation of quality jobs is an essential part of our business strategy,” said Hourdequin, who noted the jobs are first shift.
The companies reported that more than 85 jobs were secured through the venture, and at least 20 new jobs will be created.
Middletown, Conn.-based Rossi Group will be managing the sawmill and kiln operation, while Hanover, N.H.-based Lyme Timber Co. will provide timber. Additionally, Rossi Group “has an extensive lumber sales network,” and the company will work with the Bradford staff on exporting lumber, according to Hourdequin.
“Rossi Group is an experienced sawmill operator,” Hourdequin explained, saying, Rossi Group president and CEO Ted Rossi has been in the business for more than 40 years. “His flagship mill is the Emporium Hardwoods mill.”
Rossi Group is majority owner of Emporium Hardwoods. In 2018, Lyme made a significant minority investment into the Cameron County lumber company.
“The two mills are expected to produce over 60 million feet of hardwood lumber per year,” the companies reported.
The Bradford mill will be supplied by Lyme’s 160,000 acres of timberland in the surrounding area, which supplies other mills in the region, too.
“For us as a large landowner, it’s important to have mills that are well capitalized and thriving,” explained Hourdequin. “They are the markets for our wood that we harvest from our land.”
He said that Bradford and North Central Pennsylvania are “known for world-class hardwoods. This mill is sitting in the middle of one of the greatest hardwood regions in the world.”
The Bradford sawmill specializes in premium hardwoods, particularly soft and hard maple (also known as red and sugar maple, respectively), red oak and black cherry.
Ted Rossi also talked about Rossi Group’s interest in the region.
“Pennsylvania has long been a focus for our business because of its globally recognized hardwood resource,” he said. “Our investment in the Bradford sawmill complements our existing sawmill capacity and allows us to achieve desired scale, market diversification, and efficiency.”
Hourdequin said, “Hardwood lumber has really become an international product.”
He explained that some species, like sugar and red maple, are predominantly used in the United States and go to companies such as flooring plants and furniture and cabinet makers. Customers who look for red oak and black cherry are a mix of domestic and international, particularly in the Far East such as Japan and China.
Greg Lottes, vice chairman of Danzer North America and president of Danzer Lumber North America, commented on the sale of the Bradford mill.
“The divesture of the Bradford mill was a difficult decision for Danzer, but with our future focus on specialty hardwood products and surfaces, we sought out and found an excellent buyer and operator for the Bradford sawmill complex,” he explained.
“The sale to the Lyme/ Rossi group will be good for the skilled and dedicated employees at the Bradford plant and the local community,” Lottes added. “The combination of Rossi’s existing sawmill production and Lyme’s expanded timber base in Pennsylvania, makes for great synergy with the Bradford complex.”
As for Lyme and Rossi Group, Hourdequin said they are happy to take on the new venture.
“We are proud to take on Danzer’s legacy of investment and stewardship of the Bradford mill,” he explained. “It is an excellent facility with an experienced team in a region known for its hardwood resource. The mill’s unique sawing capabilities and distinctive global markets help landowners like us manage lands sustainably in a manner that supports jobs and the local forest economy.”
Lyme has also invested in other local forest products businesses including Three Rivers Forest Management and Northern Appalachian Log and Forestry, both in Coudersport. Lyme directly employs more than 220 people in the region, including those at the Bradford sawmill.