Year Founded: 1939
Business Type: Manufacturing
Location: Red Oak, Virginia
Number of Employees: 75
"We are very fortunate to have the state-of-the-art equipment, but that equipment has to have competent people operating it and people with leadership skills, people who work well together as a team and support each other. What makes us resilient, what flashes in mind first and foremost are our people."
- Ken Morgan, Chairman
A catastrophic fire destroyed Morgan Lumber's planer mill in 2006. But no one lost their jobs, because Morgan Lumber partnered with its competitors to keep everyone employed.
In place of the burned mill, the company built a new state-of-the art mill, and production soared. Market share increased, and, instead of firing workers, Morgan Lumber added people. It's a success story in Red Oak and Charlotte County, where textile and tobacco used to be the mainstay.
"We are very fortunate to have state-of-the-art equipment," said Ken Morgan, Chairman of the Board. "However, that equipment is only as good as the people behind it."
In fact, putting people first has been the guiding principal at Morgan Lumber for decades.
J.C. Morgan, a farmer, started the company in 1939. His grandson, Ken, inherited it in 1981 when his father was killed in a farming accident. He wasn't ready for the responsibility: "I had never sold any lumber," recalled Morgan. He decided that if he were to run the business, he would surround himself with competent, committed people of high character.
Don Bright, vice-president of Morgan Lumber, was one of the people Morgan brought in. "The first thing we invested in was optimization," said Bright. "It's basically using lasers to scan the log and allow the computer to decide the most profitable way to cut it."
Morgan Lumber not only updated its machinery, but improved its efficiency and widened margins.
The company has also made smart strategic decisions, acting as broker to other lumber companies and partnering to sell by-products such as bagged shavings, to increase overall productivity.
The changes paid off. In 1998, Morgan Lumber cut 19 million board feet. In 2011, Morgan Lumber expects to cut roughly 45 million board feet.
Morgan and others whose families have lived near Red Oak and Charlotte County for generations care deeply for their community and its economy.
"We are fortunate that we can have a multiplier effect," Morgan said. "It's not that we just add ten jobs; in fact those ten jobs will multiply to many more jobs in our local economy."
The Resilience Awards helped introduce Morgan Lumber to government officials and attract additional quality employees. Even more, it's given Morgan Lumber, and the area, a dose of confidence.
"It's more than just the Award, which was very humbling," Morgan said. "I think the whole concept behind the Resilience Award is going to contribute to the economic rebuilding of many communities here in the Commonwealth."