Interview with Aaron Nieman and Bill Hennigan, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association
ESCANABA — Crews are spreading wood chips and some of the big pieces of logging equipment are starting to arrive at the U.P. State Fairgrounds for the 68th annual Lake States Logging Congress and Equipment Expo.
Thousands of timber professionals will meet at the show Friday, Sept. 6, and Saturday, Sept. 7, to see new equipment and meet with others in the industry in Michigan and Wisconsin. The equipment can’t be missed when you go through the gates. The event coordinator calls it the “wow” factor.
“These are $500,000 pieces of equipment that these guys operate every day. It’s a look of really cool stuff that people like to see,” said Aaron Nieman, with the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association.
Helping to place the equipment throughout the north end of the fairgrounds is Bill Hennigan, a forester with Holli Forest Products in Ishpeming and a member of the association’s board. He says the Logging Congress each year is a big deal for the timber industry.
“This is the show that everyone in our industry looks forward to to look at the latest and great in equipment and renew old friendships. It’s a big deal for our industry. It’s how we measure our whole rest of the year,” Hennigan said.
The equipment has changed since Hennigan started working as a forester. Today’s equipment is more advanced.
“Our industry has really evolved since I’ve been in over the last 40 years into a very technology driven industry in the form of our equipment. All of these big pieces of equipment are computer controlled. The guys are sitting there in climate controlled cabs as they work throughout the day,” said Hennigan.
Timber is a major industry in Michigan and Wisconsin, Hennigan said. Number one in the U.P. As the professionals get together this weekend, Hennigan said the timber industry is in pretty good shape.
“We are rebounding from some real lows during the recession of the last few years,” he said. “Although it is a much smaller industry than what it was ten or t20 years ago here in the Lake States but it is very vibrant and very healthy right now.”
Along with the paper and building products industries, Hennigan said biomass is a promising industry for the U.P. as companies look at turning wood into energy.
Logging Congress runs Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. Along with large logging equipment on display at the north end, smaller exhibits will be on display at the Ruth Butler Building. More than 150 vendors have registered.
“I think it’s a good way for the public to come and see the nuts and bolts of a major industry here in the U.P. They see the logging trucks run up and down the road to the NewPage mill every day. Where does all of that wood come from? How does it get into that form from growing in the forest to a wood pile at the NewPage mills? It’s a great way for the public to come to our show, see what we do, talk with the various people there and learn a little bit more about one of the mainstay industries in the U.P.”
Logging Congress rotates each year between Wisconsin and Michigan. Last year, the event was held in Oshkosh, Wis.