Local timber industry continues to have economic impact

HUBBARD LAKE – A Posen man and his logging crew have been harvesting 40 acres of poplar from a property on Spruce Road, and will finish up the job today.

Richard Romel, who owns R&R Forest Products, said the trees eventually will grow back, sprouting from stumps and roots to provide another crop in 20 years or so.

A logger since the age of 18, Romel runs the business with the help of his wife, Sue, and is joined by his 43-year-old son, Mark, who also is a logger. The Romels have been logging for three generations.

A former farmer, Romel switched to logging full time in an effort to reduce work hours.

“Farming is seven days a week,” Sue Romel said. “Logging is five to six days a week.”

Romel provides all of the heavy equipment, including trucks, a chipper machine, a packerback skidder, saw head, grapple, a bulldozer and two moving-truck sized vans for hauling chips.

Romel, who is nicknamed “Rich,” said he is “rich in name only.”

However, his livelihood links him to a valuable Michigan industry. According to www.Michigan.gov, logging and associated businesses contribute $12 billion to the state’s economy and keeps 150,000 workers employed.

The Hubbard Lake property, east of Bennett Road, is owned by Ross/DRJ Management. Some of the poplar is being turned into wood chips on the site and will be trucked to Decorative Panels International in Alpena, where it will be pressed into hardboard, he said. Other trees are being trimmed into logs and will head to mills to be turned into lumber and byproducts.

Forester Paul Call of Fairview Woodyard works with Romel. Although pricing formulas are complex and involve stumpage charges by the ton, he provided a basic example:

* a property owner might receive $400 an acre for land with similar trees. Foresters say if a stand contains mature oak or maple, this amount can rise dramatically.

* after harvesting the poplar, Romel might earn $1,000 per acre for the chips and $1,000 per acre for logs delivered to the mills. This allows him to pay his workers and cover operations costs, such as fuel, insurance and maintenance or replacement of heavy equipment.

* once processed by the mills, the lumber alone, would be worth more than $2,000 per acre.

Some of the wood might go to the North Eastern Michigan Rehabilitation Opportunity Center, a processing plant in Alpena that employs the disabled. Or a portion of the logs could be made into pallets downstate that sell for $7 or more, adding more value to the renewable resource.

If the wood was of a high grade, it could be milled into decorative molding or other valuable products, he said.

Over one-third of private industry jobs come from the logging, Call said.

“You’re generating a lot of employment down the line as the wood is processed.”

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693.