MILAN — Milan Lumber Co. is undertaking a $12 million expansion of its softwood dimension sawmill located off Route 16. Added will be a new planer, a fifth drying kiln and new truck scales. Some of the equipment is already being built, and the permitting process is underway by Nobis Engineering.
Richard Carrier, owner and founder of the Carrier Group, said he hopes to begin construction as soon as the ground allows this spring and have the new equipment up and running in September.
Currently, the mill has two planers, but Carrier said one is outside under cover but not heated. That will be replaced with a new planer that will be built inside an expanded building.
The new planer will provide more flexibility in cutting wood, allowing more value-added production and more efficient use of the wood resource. Carrier said it will also provide a much better working environment for his employees.
“Richard’s timing is very good,” said Jason Stock, executive director of N.H. Timberlands Owners Association, describing the current market as “robust” with a high demand for lumber.
He said many people who are laid off or working reduced hours because of COVID-19 are using the time to do home improvement projects. The other factor driving demand, he said, is a slow but steady increase in housing markets.
Stock said Milan Lumber is a critical component of the state and regional forest economy. Set on a 45-acre site, the 44,790-square-foot mill is the only softwood sawmill in New Hampshire. It has an annual production of 70 million board feet of lumber, purchasing logs from all over northern New Hampshire and Vermont, Maine and upstate New York.
The finished product is trucked throughout the eastern United States and Canada. It is an important market for timberland owners, helping them keep their lands open and in timber production. Milan Lumber states its mill yard loads/unloads over 2,000 independent lumber trucks, 6,900 independent log trucks and 4,400 product trucks annually. The log yard can hold 12 million board feet or a three-month supply for the mill.
In 2015, the NHTOA presented Milan Lumber with its Outstanding Forest Industry Award for superior business management, efficiency, productivity, and the quality of marketing of forest industry products
Milan Lumber employs 82 people and is one of Milan’s largest taxpayers.
Carrier purchased Milan Lumber in 2008 and has made major investments, installing state-of-the-art laser heads in the mill that cut wood with exact consistency, putting in a backup sawdust and shavings boiler, investing in safety measures and increasing trucking capacity.
“We never stop,” said Carrier. “We finish one (project), and we’re looking for another.”
Milan Lumber is only a piece of the Carrier Family’s holdings in New Hampshire, Maine and Canada. Richard Carrier started Richard Carrier Trucking in 1974 with one truck and today, Carrier Trucking owns a fleet of about 150 of the yellow tractor-trailer units.
A partial list of the family’s holdings includes R.J. Chipping in Shelburne, 100,000 acres of woodlands in Maine, five chip plants, a hardwood sawmill, and well as co-ownership of HHP hardwood mill in Henniker.
Carrier also supplies all of the low grade wood chips for the 75-megawatt Burgress BioPower biomass plant in Berlin. The plant burns about 800,000 tons of low grade wood annually, that Carrier purchases from suppliers in the tri-state region.