Company looks to come to Milan

Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer

Residents of Milan had the opportunity to learn about a business interested in planting roots in Milan at a special meeting of the Milan Town Council on Tuesday, July 14 at the Milan Elementary School cafeteria.

Pike Lumber Company, based in Akron, Indiana, and with another regional plant in Carbon, near Indianapolis, has been working with the town council and the Ripley County Economic Development for the past year to find a site to build a sawmill facility. The prospective employer would employ approximately ten workers with the potential to increase to 20 within two years.

According to Jim Mulligan, chairman of the board and director of corporate development with Pike Lumber, the company started in 1904 and has 22 stockholders, mostly held by the Pike family and a limited number of board officers. The final product is kiln dried lumber that is shipped world wide.
Pike Lumber is “vertically integrated in the forest” according to Mulligan. This means that the company’s practices include sustainability and do not take any more than needed. The company owns over 100 forests in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, but also purchases timber from private owners as well as timber from private contractors.

Every part of the lumber creation process is used. According to marketing manager Richard Solano, all lumber waste is sold as sawdust, wood chips and mulch. Water used to keep logs moist in the warmer months is reclaimed and stored at an on-site pond.

Every attempt will be made to use local contractors to build the facility, according to Mulligan. A green way with trees will surround the property and block the view from Carr Street and surrounding areas.

During his presentation, Solano explained how the sawmill at the Milan site will mirror the Carbon sawmill site, with the exception of an air drying yard or the kiln drying capabilities. The product will be manufactured into boards and then shipped to the Akron plant for the drying process.

Mulligan explained that the operation at the proposed Milan site will operate on a single shift, five days a week, and nine hours a day with the occasional Saturday. The pay rate will be approximately $12-$15 per hour. Benefits offered to employees include profit sharing and group health.

All training will be provided by Pike Lumber, with mostly local hires, according to Mulligan. Job positions include general labor as well as semi-skilled positions.

Mulligan said the proposed site will sit on 35 acres on Country Club Road. A 25,000 square foot facility will house all equipment with the exception of the de-barker, which will be housed outside.
Concerns were raised regarding the safety of those residing on Country Club Road due to the increase of traffic. According to Council President Paul Hildebrand, an engineer has been hired to address issues such as widening the road, installing sidewalks, and addressing a safe way for the golf carts to cross the road.

According to Mulligan, traffic on the road will increase to approximately 2-3 semi trucks per hour, approximately 50 trucks per week. The heaviest periods will be in the morning and the evening.
The noise level from the sawmill was another concern voiced by some attending.

According to Solano, all equipment with the exception of the de-barker is housed inside the facility and therefore does not pose a problem. Solano asserts that because the de-barker is not very loud, the employees running the machine are not required to wear protective ear plugs. “It is an outdoor industry,” said Solano, “there is going to be some noise.”

The residents of Milan were invited to tour the Carbon site in order to get an idea of the layout of the proposed Milan sawmill. Those interested can contact Council President Paul Hildebrand or RCED Executive Director Gary Norman so that a day can be determined and transportation arranged.

Norman pointed out that his public announcement was a little premature, as there were some hurdles yet to be crossed. He expects to have a formal announcement in about 60 days.

“We’re excited about Pike Lumber coming to Milan,” said Norman. “The more I have worked with them in the past months, the more impressed I became.”

The meeting was held to settle some rumors, according to Hildebrand. “It’s not a done deal yet,” he said.

Town attorney Larry Eaton advised those attending to address their concerns to the town council. “This business is not offensive to the environment,” Eaton said. “We need jobs,” he continued. “The schools and the town need a tax base. This company is a class act. This will help the community to grow and thrive.”

According to Norman, the economic impact study showed that $30 million could be spent within a ten-year period in Milan. This means dollars going into local businesses by the purchase of gas, groceries, or hair cuts.

Pike Lumber Company strongly believes in giving back to the community. According to Mulligan, those interested in advancement at Pike Lumber are required to become involved in the community. “We will strive to be a good corporate neighbor,” said Mulligan.

“We want this to be a positive experience for Milan,” concluded Norman. “We want to offer Pike Lumber a good workforce.”