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A Cut Above: Wade Norris builds reputation with logging company focused on customer needs

Wade Norris builds reputation with logging company focused on customer needs

by: David Thomas

The Jackson Sun
Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reputation is very important in my business and I am committed to each job and work to satisfy each customer.” Wade Norris, Wade Norris Logging, LLC.

When Wade Norris talks about being on the cutting edge of his business, he means it in both the literal and figurative sense.

Norris is the owner of Wade Norris Logging, LLC, a business he started 21 years ago.

“I got in the logging business in 1992,” Norris said. “I became interested in the timber business when my grandfather’s timber was harvested. Since I wanted to own my own business, I decided I would get into logging on a small scale and learn all that I could.”

Originally from Brownsville, his family owned Norris Strawberry Farm in Haywood County, where his father and grandfather cut timber.

“I went to school at Jackson State (Community College) and Mr. James Harris was one of my teachers,” Norris said. “He had some timber for sale and I put someone on him.”

Norris, who has run the Boston Marathon twice, said he was the one who bought – then cut – the timber from Harris.

“I got on my feet probably in 1990,” Norris said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

Norris cuts timber in three states – Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi – and works with about 12 sawmills, where he said his company obtains the best price for the type timber owned by his customers.

“Probably, the most important thing is taking care of landowner’s property and doing what I have told the landowner I would do,” Norris said. “Reputation is very important in my business and I am committed to each job and work to satisfy each customer.”

He said hard work and determination are key factors – along with 12 employees – which raises an important question.

“We do everything we can to prevent accidents,” Norris said. “Some of my men have been with me for 17 years. It helps having good quality people I can trust when I get out there.”

From safety equipment to safety education to safety inspections, Norris said safety takes top priority in the woods.

“I started in this business in my early twenties, so I learned from experienced timber men,” Norris said. “And I didn’t hesitate to ask all the questions I could.”

Norris said he has also taken advantage of trade courses to learn all he can about one important subject – environmental issues – to take care of the land and trees for the future.

“I would not be in business right now if I clear cut tracts of timber,” Norris said. “West Tennessee does not support clear cutting although it is needed in certain areas.”

Norris sends some topwood of his work to Packaging Corporation of America Counce Mill in Hardin County, looking to utilize all of the tree.

“If you select cut, the top stem is actually pulpwood,” Norris said.

Cutting hardwood eliminates a step most would deem necessary.

“You don’t have to replant hardwood,” Norris said. “Just leaving it like it is and letting Mother Nature take over, that’s the best way.

“A friend of mine once told me, “Don’t mow your yard for 100 years and you’ll have beautiful hardwood,”” Norris said. “It’s a renewable resource that keeps coming back.”

Norris said the average tree will take between 40 and 60 years to grow to average height.

“I’m cutting in the Hatchie Bottom right now,” Norris said. “It has 100 year old timber.”

Normally, Norris added, 20 years after a select cut, a landowner can harvest the timber again, because select cutting does not devalue the land as much as clear cutting.

“Yes, good timber is harder to find even though we receive forestry reports that say timber is growing faster than it is being harvested,” Norris said.

Norris advertises for land, but he also finds timber by word of mouth.

“I try to stick with a 10-acre minimum,” Norris said. “But sometimes, five acres can be productive.”

In his business, Norris is at the mercy of the weather.

“It is a big factor,” Norris said. “We can work in extremely cold and hot weather, but too much rain like we have had this year does interfere with our job. This is the time of year I want to be working bottom timber and it has been too wet.”

The amount of precipitation has actually worked to his advantage.

“This has been an interesting year for us,” Norris said. “It’s the wettest year since I’ve been in business and it’s driving prices up, but I’m missing work, because of the rain.”

While technology has not replaced a chainsaw, Norris said advances have helped him and his loggers to be even more productive.

“We have all mechanical machinery and my insurance is a good bit less because I have machines cutting trees,” Norris said. “I have a couple of men cutting limbs after the cut. Years ago, I had lots of men on the ground and it is such a big risky business. It’s not if, but when you are going to get hurt.”

Something he’s been able to do since he got his start in the business as a teenager.

“I’ve really been blessed. It seems like the first 10 years of logging I could not wait to get to work,” Norris said. “I still enjoy my work but now I can take a little time off to enjoy with my wife and children.”

David Thomas, 425-9637

The basics

Wade Norris Logging LLC is located at 131 Miller Ave. in Jackson

Forests make up 52 percent of the states’ land area, and Tennessee is among the top three hardwood lumber producing states every year.

Reputation is very important in my business and I am committed to each job and work to satisfy each customer.” Wade Norris, Wade Norris Logging, LLC.