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Plank by plank: hardwood flooring firm seeks groove in competitive national market.

Razorback Hardwood Co. of Monticello has changed ownership.

Now, the company is expanding its operations in lumber-rich south Arkansas with the assistance of a $300,000 government loan.

The firm, which manufactures unfinished hardwood flooring and hardwood molding from red and white oak, was purchased on March 12 by Tommy Maxwell.

Razorback has begun expanding operations due in part to a loan program administered by the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.

"We plan to contribute to this part of the state both in terms of jobs and quality products," Maxwell says.

For 10 years, the Monticello operation was a division of the P.E. Barnes Co. of Hamburg, a general rough hardwood company. The purchase and subsequent improvements to the company were financed by a combination of the $300,000 loan, $400,000 from Razorback Hardwood and a $600,000 loan from Union Bank & Trust Co. of Monticello.

The 12-year government loan was made possible by a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Razorback Hardwood will make payments directly to the AIDC, which administers the federal grant program.

Maxwell, the president and general manager of Razorback Hardwood, says he plans to upgrade existing facilities and equipment as part of a move to make the company more competitive with similar operations nationwide.

Under loan terms, Razorback Hardwood must retain its original 33 jobs and expand by 14 jobs in the next two years. At least 51 percent of new employees must meet low- to moderate-income guidelines.

Maxwell says he is ahead of schedule, having already hired 17 workers to bring the staff to 50.

AIDC Confident

"We at AIDC share Tommy Maxwell's confidence in what Razorback Hardwood can contribute to Monticello's economic future," says AIDC Executive Director Dave Harrington. "His 18 years of experience with two of the country's leading hardwood manufacturers is a definite advantage."

Maxwell says his company is relatively small when compared with other operations in the region. He has no immediate plans to expand into additional areas.

But Maxwell believes Razorback Hardwood should be able to compete with operations in other states due to its expanded work force and facility improvements.

Maxwell says employees are receiving special training to help the company improve its safety, quality, production and service.

P.E. Barnes purchased the Monticello facility to store and dry lumber, according to the company's vice president, Phil Barnes.

"Primarily, we were custom drying lumber from our other plants," Phil Barnes says.

The operation grew steadily and became attractive to Maxwell, who was not affiliated with P.E. Barnes.

The sale took nine to 10 months to consummate once negotiations began with Maxwell.

About 450 workers are employed in the lumber industry in Drew County, according to the state Employment Security Division. Records show there are at least 31 lumber-related businesses in the county.
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Title Annotation:Across Arkansas; Razorback Hardwood Co.
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 27, 1992
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