Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Timber-Related Resources Are Abundant in Hot Springs, Arkansas

June 19, 2017

Arkansas Economic Development Commission spotlights Baxley Equipment and a timber industry resource in Arkansas

Hot Springs, Arkansas, sits squarely in the middle of the Ouachita Mountains (pronounced “Wash-it-ah”), one of the most densely wooded regions in North America. This is one of the most commercially viable forests to be found in the Southern U.S., and is situated at the very heart of the Arkansas wood basket.

This is truly a beautiful place – a natural gem – named for the geothermal springs that dot the landscape. But the area’s hot water is no match for the intense heat generated by a single plasma cutting head as it literally blazes its way through several inches of solid steel plate at Timber Automation’s Hot Springs-based manufacturing facility. The company, an original equipment manufacturer, markets products under both the Baxley Equipment and LogPro brand names that are well-known within timber and forest products manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. With liquefied metal arcing away from it, the computerized cutter traces the precise shape of a component part necessary for another piece of custom-built equipment that’s bound for one of the region’s high-tech, high-efficiency sawmills. “We’re one of the top manufacturers of sawmill equipment in the country,” says Russell Kennedy, while standing along the plant’s bustling production line as sparks fly from a nearby workman’s grinder. “And I guess, when it comes to pellet-mill equipment, and paper-mill chip-handling equipment, we’re probably the nation’s premier provider.”  

Across town at Mid-South Engineering, Lauren Nufer, a mechanical engineer is hard at work implementing the exacting specifications of a design – while managing her first large construction project – a wood-pellet processing mill. “There are so many intricate details in the building phase,” Nufer says excitedly, then quickly adds, “It is challenging, but it is also exceptionally interesting work.” After three years on the job, she has been involved in several conversions of older out-of-date mills that have been utterly reimagined and completely reengineered to meet production requirements for speed, volume, and processing efficiencies of the modern timber and forest products industry. The firm where she’s employed has earned its international reputation as trusted consulting engineers with particular expertise in the forest products and building materials industry for more than 45 years.  

The company was formed when timber giant Weyerhaeuser purchased the Arkansas assets of Dierk’s Forests, Inc., in 1969. The former engineering and construction division of Dierk’s spun off to become Mid-South Engineering which currently boasts projects in softwood and hardwood lumber, pulp and paper, biomass and hydroelectric power, pellet production, MDF, OSB, plywood, LVL, and mineral processing in more than 40 states and 19 foreign countries.

Dozens of other companies also call Hot Springs or one of its neighboring counties home.  These companies employ large numbers in the state’s timber and forest products manufacturing workforce, and they specialize in developing and providing everything from custom technological controls, electrical and mechanical equipment, and chemical processing to construction expertise for sawmills, pellet mills, paper mills, and more – all in support of the Arkansas timber industry.

For a resort city with a population approaching 36,000, Hot Springs may seem an unusual location for such a concentration of professional expertise capable of supporting virtually every aspect of the forest products industry. Then again, one need only to look around at the lush and dense mix of pine and hardwoods that surround this city to understand that companies built on a foundation of timber can thrive here just as easily as the forest itself does.