Anderson Forest Products celebrates 50 years
By Anne Pyburn Craig
Back in 1967, a young lumber grader named Billy Joe Anderson bought a sawmill in Munfordville and served buyers from both the United States and Japan. Five years later, he opened a 14,000 square foot pallet factory in Tompkinsville with 15 employees — and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Last Friday, March 17, employees and guests gathered in a vast warehouse amidst the delicious smell of fresh-cut pine and celebrated a 50th birthday party for Anderson Forest Products, which now maintains three facilities and employs 108 people at its Tompkinsville plant, adding $3.2 million in wages to the local economy last year and spending another 2.2 million with 90 local vendors.
“I see a lot of familiar faces, and remember a lot of others I wish I could still see,” said company vice president Kerry Anderson. “I’ve grown up right here. I started working here the summer between 7th and 8th grade, and it turned me from a boy into a man real quick. It means a lot to me and to all of us that you’re here celebrating with us today.”
As everyone lunched on barbecue provided by Jamie Tooley and cake and cupcakes provided by Tonya Hammer, human resources manager Ina Graves recounted some of the highlights of the company’s 50-year journey from a simple sawmill to a company offering wooden crates, cable spools and other highly specialized products to clients from all over the US and Canada, Russia and India, with Turkey soon to be added to the list. “This is a big deal, just like a golden wedding anniversary,” Graves observed, “and in fact, this year is the 60th for Billy Joe and Joan. Good job, Joan!”
Very little, Graves said, goes to waste; scraps and sawdust are used by poultry farmers within a 100 mile radius, and larger scraps are sold as heating fuel. And while remaining true to its essentials, the company has often been on the cutting edge in its field. “Anderson was the first pallet maker in the county, and the first to start using automated nailers,” Graves said. “In 1978, Billy Joe formally incorporated with the family as officers, which they still are. In 1994, we purchased the first CNC programmable router, and we now have six — those allow us to make just about anything.”
After a few friendly words from State Representative Bart Rowland, it was time to recognize the real stars of the show — 48 employees who’d each been with the company for ten or more years were awarded plaques. (“Do I get to kiss everyone?” joked Joan. “Y’all are some good-looking boys.”)
“We have been so richly blessed with loyalty,” observed operations manager Joshua Anderson as he handed out the awards amid rounds of applause and some laughter. And before the crowd left to return to their tasks, Kerry had a few final words. “Every job here, from the smallest to the largest, is important,” he said, “and without what you do, I couldn’t do what I do. We think of all of you as part of the family, and anything we can ever do for any of you, we will.”
For more information about Anderson Forest Products, call (270) 487-6778 or visit www.afp-usa.com.