Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Jobs from Dead Trees in the City

New Jobs from Dead Trees in the City

Dead, Dying, and Nuisance Trees are a major cost to dispose of in the city.  Bradley Thurman of Milwaukee explained, “The City Forestry crew can put a mark on a tree on your property, and you have to remove it – or they have it cut down and charge you.  I just paid $900 to a tree service to take down and haul away one tree in my yard.”

Thousands of large trees are cut down every year in every city, then split up for firewood, chipped for mulch, or thrown in a landfill.  Even before the timber industry went through a major downsizing with the recession and globalization, 99% of city trees had no commercial value due to the nails and other metal objects grown into the wood.

Many cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and their suburbs have vast areas of large trees that are old and dying off at a growing rate.  Most of the wood sold and used in these cities now is imported from another country.  Politicians keep talking about jobs.

Use What You Have
Some cities have businesses that take some of the trees that are cut each day by tree services, and make beautiful and valuable wood products.  Rob Bjorkland of Santa Barbara California is overwhelmed with large valuable logs of many species that are delivered free to his mountain side location by area tree services and city workers.

Bjorkland has a Lucas Swing Blade sawmill that he uses to mill the logs.  He built a solar heated lumber dry kiln using an old shipping container, and he stores kiln dry lumber and flooring in another shipping container.  The variety of products he makes are as diverse as the tree species he uses.  A City tree scape has many more species planted in it than a natural forest or landscape.  

“A Solar Cycle Lumber Kiln is a key to success when you are using a variety of species,” explained Jim Birkemeier of Spring Green Timber Growers in Wisconsin – Bjorkland’s mentor.   “The daily heating and nightly moisture equalization cycle produces better quality lumber and more consistent moisture content than a commercial kiln that is built for speed.  A solar heated kiln also shows your customers that you truly are a sustainable business.”

Custom Blended – mixed species flooring is the prime product for both of these businessmen.  They make the flooring and install & finish the wood right in the customer’s home.  Each floor is uniquely beautiful and they can sell what wood they have in stock.  Every new floor becomes a showroom and the happy customers are voluntary sales staff for the wood businesses.

Furniture, cabinets, stairways, mantels, and other high value products are also produced from the logs.  Both men are able to pick and choose which logs have the best character for each new project from their vast supplies.  With the wood being free and all the typical middlemen, brokers, shippers and wholesalers eliminated, the business earns the full retail price of each product.

New Business Start-up in Milwaukee
Milwaukee businessman Timothy John recently bought a wooden bookmark at the Crossroads coffeehouse in Cross Plains, Wisconsin.  An hour later he saw similar laser cut wood leaves at the American Players Theater in Spring Green.  He discovered the unique articles were made with salvaged wood at Spring Green Timber Growers – Birkemeier’s retail wood products store.  Timothy immediately invited Birkemeier to travel to Milwaukee to share ideas with other businessmen wanting to create jobs in downtown neighborhoods.

Birkemeier and another new Spring Green businessman, Alex Greene of Red Beard Woodworks, showed a variety of their wood products to a gathering at the Coffee Makes You Black coffeehouse.  Also encouraging the group to take advantage of this great opportunity was Allen Tomaszek of Milwaukee Woodworks, another offshoot of Birkemeier’s business.  “We aren’t doing anything new here, just using what we have to meet the current need,” stated Birkemeier.  “We are actually going back in time – people built much of Milwaukee with local wood, now people prefer the convenience of the cheap imports in the big box stores and wonder why unemployment is so high.”

A few days later, Bradley Thurman, owner of  Coffee Makes You Black and his sons visited Spring Green to see the several local timber businesses for themselves.   Seeing the simple machinery and common sense ideas at work was very encouraging to the family.  Small modern sawmills with inexpensive blades makes it feasible to process logs that often do contain metal overgrown in the wood.

A few days later, Tim John added, “I just had a good chat with Bradley, Sr & Jr. Brad Sr, has been finding cut wood and bringing it to his building. (Actually his son Darmon is doing the hauling.)  In other words, they have begun.  At Coffee Makes You Black, we discussed a website and what it should focus on. The consensus was that it should concentrate on reducing black male unemployment and then have links to other sites.  I'll light up a cigar tonight to commemorate this moment. Thanks to all for embarking on this Marco Polo voyage.”

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