H.G. Yeomans has deep roots in the forestry industry. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, he helped his dad run a farm and a pulpwood operation in the Swainsboro area. “I’ve been around pulpwood trucks all my life,” he says.
Yeomans later went into business with his father, who started a full-time timber company in the early ’70s.
“I was in a partnership with my dad when he died in 1976,” says Yeomans, chairman of Yeomans Wood and Timber. “I went on to start the wood and timber company in 1979.” His son, Russ Yeomans, now serves as its president.
Now semi-retired from the business, 66-year-old Yeomans has made his mark on an industry that is second among Georgia’s leading manufacturing employers. In addition to overseeing a business that went from producing around 250,000 tons of wood each year to one that now turns out more than 1.25 million tons annually, Yeomans has been active in the industry on a larger level, serving on the boards for both the Georgia Forestry Association and the Georgia Forestry Commission.
With some 22.2 million acres of private timberland available for commercial use – more than any other state – Georgia’s forestry industry generates $25 billion and employs more than 180,000. The state’s top two exports are wood pulp and paper/paperboard.
Companies such as Yeomans Wood and Timber are key to the health of the forestry industry in Georgia.
One reason for the company’s success is its efforts toward sustainability. It “maintains a philosophy of conservation and utilization directed toward safe and healthy management techniques,” according to the company’s website.
“We have a forester on staff that handles regeneration and working with land owners,” Yeomans explains. “We buy it, cut it, deliver it and plant it back, and that’s what we try to encourage. We’ve been environmentally sensitive on the wetlands with our best management practices.”
Georgia’s forestry industry is moving forward after enduring a setback primarily from the downturn in the housing market that began in 2008. The state’s timberland coverage has remained stable since the 1950s, and with growth of forests exceeding removal over the years, the volume of timber in Georgia is actually greater now than it was in the 1930s.
There are various reasons for the success, says Nathan McClure, director of forest utilization for the Georgia Forestry Commission.
“Generally, it’s the resource that we have, and there are several things that lead to that resource,” he says. “The most basic thing is the ownership of the timberlands. There has to be a good relationship between the markets for wood products and the land owners that grow trees and manage forests.”
Around 91 percent of Georgia’s forestland is privately owned, nearly 60 percent by private individuals.
“There is a good regulatory climate here that recognizes private ownership and the impacts of good markets on providing an incentive for landowners to do the right thing in terms of conservation, reforestation and other forest management,” McClure says.
Georgia also has a good export industry for its timber products, with one of the east coast’s top ports in Savannah.