Timber & Biomass Expo Southeast draws good participation despite challenges to the end.
by Rich Donnell, DK Knight
Oppressive heat and humidity, irritating dust and abundant bugs combined to make it bittersweet to the end, but in the end, the delayed and relocated Timber & Biomass Expo Southeast was more sweet than bitter. At least that’s how most major exhibitors will probably remember the spectacle, which took place June 11-12 near this tiny crossroads community deep in south Georgia.
Despite the discomfort, visitor turnout was good on both days, but the heat had most departing by early afternoon. “The people came out; they just didn’t stay very long,” aptly summed up one exhibitor. For that matter, few exhibitors whined about the early departure of attendees; they were right behind them.
More importantly, many attendees were receptive as they evaluated various products, goods and services; or left their names for follow-up calls and/or demos. Some were there to deal, and deal they did.
According to the show sponsor, Hatton-Brown Publishers, an estimated 3,000 were on-site across two days, with loggers, families and employees making up the core. Other attendees included foresters, landowners, wood fiber brokers, mill executives and equipment dealers. They came from 24 states, not to mention Canada, Argentina and Australia.
Fifty exhibitors greeted visitors with an impressive lineup of equipment, supplies and services that ranged from whole tree chippers to tires, portable weigh scales to insurance and trailers to delimbers. Live demonstrations produced untold tons of biomass and logs from forests owned by The Langdale Co., based in nearby Valdosta.
The most expansive component of the show was a dedicated biomass area that featured 21 chippers and grinders and one shavings machine. Two other chippers were also operated on a logging equipment site, bringing the total to 23, probably the largest number of such machines ever assembled at a U.S. forestry event. Reflecting a “real world scenario,” these machines for the most part processed small full tree hardwood that had been cut and bunched three weeks earlier.
It was this array of machines that attracted many attendees, including the dozen primary logging contractors serving Langdale interests in the area. Langdale is said to be coaxing all its contractors toward a chipper purchase in coming months as it anticipates helping supply some of the area’s emerging energy plants with biomass fuel or more upscale feedstock.
But not all potential chipper purchasers were local. The Childs logging family from Georgetown, Tenn. was somewhat typical of the crowd, as brothers Tim and David, their father, mother and other family members departed their home at 3 a.m. and drove straight to the show site. Currently running two crews and producing pulpwood and logs, the Childs were scoping out the abundance of chipping machinery, thinking in terms of processing leftover hardwood tops.
DeWayne Oakley of Florence, Ala., who started up a chipping crew last year to go along with several logging crews, was thinking about buying a grinder for his Oakley Biomass operation. Oakley said the momentum of the wood bioenergy industry in the past two years is “one of the best things that’s happened in the timber industry,” providing possible new markets for loggers, and because “the landowner is happier because he’s getting a better, cleaner job that we can give him.”
Scott Wertz of Wildwood Logging, Saluda, SC, brought his family en route to the Gulf Coast. Wertz said business hasn’t been great, and he had parked some equipment, but he’s trying to find a new market and thus came to view chippers. “Biofuel sure has the market jumping around here,” Wertz said. “I’ve seen a lot of log trucks on the road.”
The abundance of chipping action also lured Robert Brown, Sr. of BB&J Logging, Milledgeville, Ga. “I’m curious about chippers,” Brown said. “It looks like there’s going to be some changes going on with these new pellet plants being built.”
Many loggers came simply to catch up on the latest equipment. Such was the case with Guke Tapscott of Tapscott Brothers in Scottsville, Va. He says their operation runs up to five crews and produces 250-300 loads per week, and that wood orders are good through most of the year. Tapscott also has a hand in a logging equipment dealership.
Greg Boyd of Long Cane Logging, Hodges, SC, runs a chipping operation. He drove all night to reach the site. “This is the first time I’ve ever been to a show like this. I’m really enjoying just looking at everything.”
Harvey Black of McCool, Miss., a retired land buyer for Weyerhaeuser, came with his neighboring landowner and dairy farmer, Jim Turnipseed. Black said he’s thinking about doing his own thinning on 800-1,000 acres and was looking for ideas.
Incoming president of the Southeastern Wood Producers Assn., Jimbo Nathe of R.J. Nathe & Son, Inc., Dade, Fla., said he was on hand to stay abreast of equipment technology. Nathe’s family runs two small crews, stressing versatility more than production.
Once one of his state’s largest operators, Willie Welch of Welch Timber, Grove Hill, Ala., has downsized to one crew with six employees, run by his son, Jeremy, who was taking a look at chippers. Welch himself wasn’t sure about getting into chipping, but said he’s enjoying assisting his son.
Several members of the Gordon Logging family made the drive from Estill, SC. Patriarch Eloan Gordon said they wanted to see the technology. “You never know, you might see something you want to get involved in,” he said, “but really we’re just window shopping.”
Attendees walked about a mile and a quarter to complete the exhibitor loop. The sandy dirt road was well compacted, and a water truck was in constant motion, trying to keep dust to a minimum.
Bandit Industries’ Jerry Morey said Bandit was pleased with the quality of attendees and the number of leads, noting some visitors from the Midwest and Northeast in addition to the Southeast. “We will sell a number of pieces of equipment from leads from the show,” he said.
Morbark’s Todd Gruss reported two chipper sales linked to the show, “and we are developing/nurturing a few more we hope to close soon. Overall, it was a good show for us. We had 42 existing/potential customers recorded from all over the Southeast.”
Ralph Metcalf of Cutting Systems Inc. (CSI) said traffic was good at its static and live displays. “We developed several leads from both and look to do some hard copy orders in the coming weeks from those leads. All in all it was a great adventure.”
Knight Forestry, Inc., Whigham, Ga., a dealer for CSI, Barko and other lines, was part of an exhibit that included CSI, Barko, TimberPro and Rotochopper. Partner Jason Knight says leads developed at the show resulted in Knight Forestry’s selling a new CSI dangle head and a new Barko 595ML knuckleboom within two weeks of the show.
Rickey O’Berry of GCR Tire Centers said traffic at its static booth was strong both days, and the company received several orders for truck tires and quoted a number of forestry tires, which reps were following up on. “We were pleased with the turnout of old and new customers,” O’Berry said.
Likewise, the people at Titan International, which owns and markets the Goodyear off-road tire line, reported good traffic and interest.
Cliff Hudson promoted a chain flail delimber at Chambers DeLimbinator’s booth. He said he developed a few solid leads and “got the chance to see and visit with about 15 customers and some former customers, so I would say it was a very good show for us.”
Maxi-Load Scales was busy both days, and two prospective customers who had been talking about buying scales did commit to purchase, according to owner Ken Murray.
John Deere held four equipment demonstrations each day and reported large crowds to see Deere’s new knuckleboom loader, log loader and feller-buncher. Deere’s tent, located on the last bend of the demo loop, provided relief from the heat and showed videos of biomass experts discussing the opportunities for woody biomass on a jumbo-sized television. A Deere spokesperson said the timing of the show, with the market moving upward, was perfect, and noted how far some people traveled to reach the event, and that the show’s postponement from April to June, due to wet conditions in the spring, may have actually been a benefit and served to draw more people.
Yancey Bros., the Georgia Caterpillar, Prentice and Peterson dealer, shared its large tent, which featured cooling water misting fans, with Florida Cat dealer Ring Power. Various Cat and Prentice machines drew lots of attention, but perhaps drawing the most was the Peterson 4300 chipper and the Biobaler, a tractor-drawn biomass collection product made in Canada, marketed by Supertrak and carried by Yancey Bros.
Always a big draw was the Prentice Log Loader Championship, conducted in one corner of the Yancey lot. Operating a Prentice 2384B, Shaun O’Dell, from Winfield, Ala., won the event with a time of 2 minutes, 34 seconds. O’Dell left his home early in the morning to make the contest, and won the first championship he’s ever entered, a rare accomplishment. Also, it happened on his 25th birthday. O’Dell runs a loader for Clark & Son Logging.
More than 80 contestants participated. The competition raised $1,326 for Log A Load For Kids through entry fees, a match from Caterpillar Forest Products and another match from The Langdale Co., the show host.
Tigercat showed its new D-series skidders, all of which incorporate Turn-Around as an operator-centered option, as well as several feller-bunchers and other machines. All machines on its lot were committed to new owners. It did not operate equipment.
Woodsman Chippers reported it was extremely busy with customers, prospects, dealers and factory personnel, pointing to customers from as far away as Quebec and even Australia, who came to observe Woodsman’s new 400 series chippers.
Industrial Cutting Tools, Inc., a division of The Langdale Co., discussed chipper knives with several individuals or groups that expressed an intention to purchase a chipper in the near future. ICT quoted new knives and sharpening services to a dozen customers.
Vermeer Southeast salesman Ronnie Burch reported that the big HG8000 horizontal grinder in action on Vermeer’s lot was purchased just prior to the show by William Brothers Trucking of Hazlehurst, Ga. “ We also got another solid lead on our 630 HP HG6000 grinder as well as our BC2100XL 21 in. capacity chipper (both on site),” revealed Vermeer SE spokesman Glenn Patterson.
Larry Williamson with Magnolia Trailers said Magnolia “had a real good show…and a few orders.”
Guffin & Eleam, Inc., Summerville, Ga., a commercial insurance agency whose focus has turned to the forestry industry, reported that its customer service reps took advantage of the opportunity to meet face-to-face with clients. Scott Copeland said they touched base with close to 400 potential clients. The company had several gift drawings, the largest being a flat screen television won by Kevin Pittman of Valdosta.
Most exhibitors appeared to be satisfied with the turnout and their decision to participate. DK Knight and Charles Burkhardt organized and managed the event. Noting a few things that needed improvement from an organization and management standpoint, Knight praised Langdale, exhibitors, attendees and the Hatton-Brown show staff for their “much appreciated assistance, cooperation and participation in making the show a successful one.” He also indicated that Hatton-Brown has plans to hold the show again in the Southeast, tentatively on May 17-18, 2013.
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