Andy Harper, of Winterwood Timber Frames in East Montpelier, has always been committed to buying logs as locally as possible for his custom-built timber frame houses. But when he was awarded a Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) grant for $75,000 in 2015, he was able to power up and outfit a new showroom and workshop on Route 2 that helped him invest even more in the region.
Harper used the grant to install three-phase power suitable for running the heavy machinery needed to expand his mill-working business and purchased two new kilns to dry his locally harvested timber on-site. A new wood-burning external boiler heats the facility, using wood scraps gleaned from workshop waste. The grant also funded two new custom-made signs that help bring passersby into the new showroom, which resulted in dozens of new building projects.
The investment made possible by the Working Lands grant enabled Harper to more than double gross sales in 2015 and reach more than $1 million combined profit in 2016. More recently, Winterwood Timber Frames has grossed $1.4 million. That’s helped Harper maintain 10 year-round employees.
“Winning a WLEI grant felt like the vote of confidence that I needed to move my business forward,” Harper says. “And it felt like we were sharing the risk to some degree, allowing me to make smarter decisions to benefit the business and continue to invest locally.”
Winterwood Timber Frame’s Working Lands business grant also strengthened the local forest economy supply chain. When Harper and his staff are not using the kilns, local woodworkers and other business also enjoy access to them for their own projects. Harper then converts their lumber into products such as flooring, stair components, and butcher block countertops. With 6,000 board feet capacity, the kilns are always full with a waiting list of customers.
With the increase in profits from the initial growth after the Working Lands grant, Winterwood became the local sawmill’s biggest customer in 2015.The business has expanded to buys timbers from additional business that can mill, plane, and size the wood to the necessary specifications, including LSF Forest Products in Fletcher and Gagnon Lumber in Pittsford who supplies hardwood. Harper notes that there is now significant wait time associated with accessing timbers, which points to the need of additional timber processing mills in the state.
To learn more about what goes on at Winterwood Timber Frames, visit http://winterwoodtimberframes.com/.
Photos credit Winterwood Timber Frames.