Franks Logging Featured Article
Franks Logging was recently featured in an article for the national timber industry trade magazine called "The Northern Logger". The article was written by Mike Monte.
Located in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Franks Logging & Excavating is a partnership between father and son. Eugene Frank and his son Chris run an extensive logging operation and quite a few side businesses.
Eugene Frank was an employee in the pulp mill for Badger Paper in Peshtigo, for 23 years. The loggers and employees at the Badger pulp mill still remember the sting when the mill closed. When it did, Eugene Frank was one of those who suddenly was out of a steady job. Unlike many other employees, Eugene had other options to fall back on. He logged on the side and had an insulation business as another sideline. He had purchased a 4500 Iron Mule in 1990 to log with. He started with his grandfather when he was a kid, using a horse and a Swede saw. In turn, his son Chris worked with his father, running a measuring pole and running a chain saw by age 13.
Chris had started a landscape business when in his teens, and he bought out Dad's insulation business in 1993. When Eugene left the Badger mill, he bought back into the insulation business, paying his son more than he sold it for, as the business had grown. They also started Franks Logging and Excavating in 1996. Eugene Frank said that he was very happy working in the Badger pulp mill. He liked the work, the benefits and the people he worked with. He also had the option of moving to the paper mill side, but chose to follow the path he is now on. He seems quite happy with that path, and, it should be added, the paper mill didn't run very long after that.
The team worked together, with Chris buying a log truck and handling the hauling detail and Eugene working the logging side of the business. They worked the Iron Mule until another logger passed away. Tom Hageny, a logger based in Three Lakes, Wisconsin died of complications after minor surgery. Hageny had a Ponsse Ergo harvester, a Ponsse Bison forwarder, a D5 Cat, and a Mack log truck. Hageny's widow sold the entire line of equipment to the Franks, and their connection with Ponsse logging machinery was born. They have stuck with Ponsse ever since. Only the D5 is left from the original purchase from the Hageny estate, and they have upgraded twice since that original purchase.
Chris and Eugene are now running eight Ponsse cut-to-length machines. When asked why they have chosen to stay with Ponsse, they said it works very well and they are satisfied with the production capabilities. They also said that if you stick with one type of equipment you become familiar with breakdowns and have the capability to recognize and fix that breakdown. In addition to their four Ponsse logging teams, they also have four subcontractors, one of which is a hand-cut operation.
Their wood is hauled by five Peterbilt truck and pup trailer combinations and a Western Star semi with a loader that they built from a glider kit.
When you are piling up this amount of wood, you need markets, and the Franks are big suppliers to a number of pulp mills and the waferboard plant that Louisiana-Pacific runs at Sagola, Michigan. Sagola is a market for aspen as is the NewPage mill at Biron, Wisconsin and the Verso mill at Escanaba for a small amount. They noted that aspen markets had shrunk in the last few years with mill closures.
Hardwood pulpwood is sold at a variety of mills, with the Verso mill in Quinnessec, Michigan receiving the lion's share of the Franks Logging output. Thilmany Paper in Kaukana, Wisconsin is also a market for hardwood and pine.
Franks Logging has also created its own hardwood market with a firewood business. They send a steady stream of firewood to Chicago and other urban locations from their firewood yard adjacent to their truck shop. The hardwood mix is usually oak, cherry and birch. The name of their firewood business is the Firewood Depot, and they also sell cut, split and cured firewood to people who pick up the wood or have it delivered. By the way, Emil Gafner would be happy to know that the 4500 Iron Mule still works well moving wood around the woodyard.
With the output from this much machinery working every day, they are constantly looking for standing timber, and they acquire stumpage from a variety of sources. According to the father and son team, they cut about 25% private holdings. Wisconsin and Michigan supply another 25%, roughly, from stumpage harvested from state timber holdings. The county forests of Marinette, Oconto, and Florence counties, in Wisconsin supply approximately the other 50%.
While Eugene and Chris look at timber sales, they have found it expedient to hire two foresters to keep up with the demand for standing timber and to cater to the needs of some of the stumpage owners. George VanKirk and Andy Angus do just that, spending their time looking at and estimating timber, along with promoting goodwill with private stumpage owners.
Franks Logging tries to make its private landowners happy, and removing brush for biomass is one way, but they will also put in food plots for deer, clearing the spot, fertilizing the soil and planting the right food to make whitetails happy and fat. For those who don't know, Wisconsin is a deer hunting state, where for nine days, many hunters can't think of anything else. The food plots create a dining spot that helps put whitetails in the frying pan.
Repairs are done in a modern shop that also houses offices for their various businesses. In addition to repairing their trucks and equipment, they offer their repair services to anyone who needs it, and when I visited, there was a logging truck that belonged to another logger waiting to be fixed and another truck that belonged to a tree trimming service that was a competitor to their tree service business.
Franks Tree Service is another business that is operated by Eugene and Chris. They have all the equipment and expertise, plus the knowledgeable employees to operate this business in addition to their logging company. And Eugene says he likes to do this job once in awhile. The tree service to the amount of biomass they produce.
The Franks also handle some boimass on their timber harvesting jobs. Many landowners like the look of their woodlot after the tops have been removed and utilized for fuel or landscape material, and it is another market for the Franks and an increasing number of other logging companies throughout the Lake States Region.
Franks Logging has a yard where they do the chipping not far from the shop with tops generated by the tree service business. They do not chip their tops nor haul their own chips, but rely on selling their biomass inventory to Gunville Trucking, located in Niagara, Wisconsin. Gunville comes to this yard and chips and hauls the biomass away. The tops from logging jobs are not hauled there, but skidded and piled on the log landings, where Gunville comes in and does the chipping and hauling.
The Frank father-and-son partnership has 75 to 80 employees, and that isn't hard to understand when you add up the various businesses they are involved in. Besides the firewood side, they are still in the insulating business, which is called Frank's Energy Savers. Presumably, you can buy your firewood from the Franks and they can fix it so you burn less firewood by insulating you house. They operate Frank's Excavating as well, and as Eugene says, it doesn't hurt to have another way to earn money when the pulpwood markets are poor.
The list of Frank-owned businesses isn't over. They also own a truck stop and restaurant. The Eagle Express Truck Stop is about a mile from Peshtigo. It is a BP gas station with diesel for trucks. There are showers and internet access for truckers and a spot to just relax for awhile and watch a television. On one side of the station is a George Webb restaurant which, of course, is big no breakfasts and lots of coffee, but serves plenty of other menu items as well.
Eugene says he likes the truck stop, and admits he doesn't know how to run the credit card machine or the till, but is always glad to have it, giving truckers an easy stop before they get into Green Bay down U.S. 41. By the way, he says the girls who work in the truck stop always rescue him when he is faced with waiting on a customer and is confronted with the cash register. Eugene pointed out that the truck stop doesn't have much to do with their logging and other businesses, but they do sell themselves fuel, and that helps a little bit with their fuel costs as they make the profit on the sale.
Eugene Frank is someone who wants to be busy. He said that he was a poor student, flunking out of his first smemster of college. He attended college after a tour of Vietnam, and he said he just couldn't get his brain to focus on his studies. An understanding pastor hleped and learning to talk about his experiences has helped. He is doing some public speaking about his time in Vietnam, and that too has helped. Keeping busy is also a good way for Eugene to not dwell on those dark days, and nobody can argue that he has enough irons in the fire to keep himself and a host of others busy.
The "others" are the people in the employ of the varioius Frank ventures. Father and son both stress that having good managers and reliable workers is the key to being successful in this large business venture that is located in a small Wisconsin town, Peshtigo, of about 3,000 residents. Having an aggressive family that provides jobs in the woods and in other ventures has to be extremely important to this small Wisconsin town. It is also apparent that Chris Frank is more involved in the logging side of the business than his father. He seems to be a serious, no-nonsense, focused guy who tries to stay on top of his logging crews and will fill in if there is an absentee employee.
They are located in a pretty area of the state, 45 miles north of Green Bay and on Lake Michigan. Peshtigo is named for the Peshtigo River that empties into the big lake in town. It is a community steeped in logging history. Pine logs were floated to this port on Lake Michigan, where sawmills turned them into boards. The enitre area was covered in logging slash, and on October 8 of 1871, this huge pile of fuel erupted in flame. It is listed as the biggest forest fire in American history, and its cause is debated to this day. The fire not only burned the slashings, but also destoryed standing timber, wiped out homesteads, burned the town and killed somewhere between 1,200 and 2,400 people. The fire burned scores of miles inland and reached into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This catastrophic fire received little national attention because of Mrs. O'leary's cow. The Chicago Fire occurred on the same day, with little loss of life, but stole the headlines.
The area is now covered with woods, interspersed with small farms that seem prosperous and productive, a far cry from the desolation that hit the area in 1871. The timber grew back many decades ago, and the logging industry and the Frank partnership are logging and doing it well.
Pictured above from left to right: George VanKirk, forester, Chris Frank, Andy Angus, forester, Luke Broderick, harvester operator and Eugene Frank
Franks Inc., Franks Logging's parent company has launched a new firewood business. The new business is called Firewood Depot and will specialize in selling seasoned, split and cut to length firewood.
The Firewood Depot business will work together with Franks Logging in supplying firewood throughout Wisconsin. The business is located at the Franks Inc. headquarters just south of Peshtigo, WI. Check out their new website by clicking on the logo for more information.
Franks Logging Inc.
N2467 Koronkiewicz Lane
Peshtigo, Wisconsin 54157
Please send my grateful thanks for a job well done to all your employees on the recent logging project at my property in Pembine. Should you need a positive word from me about your company, let me know!
Frank, Oshkosh, Wi.
Hey George: Its employees like you that make an operation and a company look good. I now know that I made the right decision in choosing Frank's Logging and let it be known that through my interaction with you, I came away impressed with your presentation which made it easier to choose Frank's. Thanks so much.
John, Menominee, Mi.