Jamestown fiber mill opens

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

A national wood shavings manufacturer has opened a new plant in Jamestown.

American Wood Fibers, Inc. is a family-owned company based in Columbia, MD, that has opened 10 plants throughout the United States since being founded in 1966 by Frank Faehner.

The company specializes in producing wood flour - a fine sawdust used in wood putty and composite building materials- and other wood by-product. It is the nation's largest manufacturer of wood shavings products, such as bedding for pets or livestock.

Mike Krol, operations manager at AWF's Jamestown plant, said the company has filled three full-time positions and hopes to create more as operations in the area expand.

The company acquired California Wood Shavings in July 2011, at 12015 La Grange Road, from owner Bob Brewster.

The existing facilities leftover by the previous company, the location in Central California and proximity to resources were key factors in the decision to open up shop in Tuolumne County, Krol said.

He said the company's 10 operating plants are all located in small towns where access to wood resources are abundant.

"The key to us is being close to our resource and to our markets," Krol said. "Obviously, we serve California markets, and thought this would be a good central operation for us."

AWF spent 10 months overhauling the existing plant it acquired from Brewster, and hired a number of local contractors in the process.

Krol said the Jamestown plant incorporates many state-of-the-art machines that aim to make it one of the company's top production facilities.

"We have incorporated the latest technologies in this plant," he said. "It's not the iPad, but if you look at other plants around the country, you would be hard-pressed to find the automation and innovation that's in this plant."

The company buys logs from the U.S. Forest Service and private entities.

The logs are sent through a machine that has motors with 42 different blades attached for shaving. The shavings and dust are then dried in a separate machine, which brings the moisture-level in the product down to an ideal 10 to 12 percent.

Once the shavings are dried, they are packaged for sale in pet shops and tractor supply or feed stores throughout the United States.

Krol described the plant as a "zero-waste facility," with end cuts of logs going to a firewood processor in the Central Valley, shavings used in various products and wood dust being used to create the heat that dries the shavings.

"I think that's important with all of the environmental issues out there," he said.

Last week, the Jamestown plant had a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its grand opening. The event was well-attended by AWF's upper management and county representatives.

Krol acknowledged the help the company has received from local economic leaders like Larry Cope, director of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority, and George Segarini, president of the county's Chamber of Commerce.

Segarini said he thinks the business has potential for success in the area, which is mutually beneficial to the community.

"It's an obvious boost to the local economy and its the type of industry that could really prosper here as a result of the natural resources we have here in our community" he said.

The Union Democrat
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