Made in Milan: Escue Wood Treated Products primed for growth
By Logan Watson
Escue Wood Treated Products, LLC, Milan’s newest industry, has only officially been in business for a few months, but the family business is already eying expansions and new markets.
“We started construction last June, but we’ve really only been selling since mid-March,” said Nathan Escue, Vice-President of EWTP. Escue Wood Treated Products began treating their first loads of lumber in January and are hard at work carving out a place in the Mid-South.
At the helm is General Manager Alvin Escue, one of the pioneers in the wood treating industry. Alvin built his first treatment plant in 1978 for Brunswick Pulp and Paper in Pearson, Georgia, as well as several others for different companies. Escue went into business for himself in 1980, building a treatment plant in Millwood, Kentucky. Over the last 45 years, Alvin has treated more than a billion board feet of southern yellow pine.
“We’re trying to penetrate a market that already has a strong customer base,” said Nathan, “but we’re seeing a lot of successes. We’ve had virtually no complaints from our customers. It’s actually quite the contrary.”
Currently, the Escues ship their lumber to retail customers in Missouri, Kentucky and Southern Illinois, as well as West and Middle Tennessee, and are looking into extending their distribution area to a 500 mile radius in the future. The Escues created 14 jobs when they built their operation in Milan, but the move home was also beneficial to the business.
“Our nearest competitor is about 130 miles south,” said Escue. “Locating in Milan has put us closer to the market. The best timber comes from the Sun Belt, so we buy our wood from the South, and our customers are primarily North and West of us. We’re 45
minutes from I-55 and 25 minutes from I-40, so we can get our products to market pretty rapidly.” Escue also stated that they would be adding a sales representative in the future to expand into Arkansas and the Northern Mississippi/Memphis area and have gotten a grant from the state to install a rail spur this fall.
Dealing exclusively with southern yellow pine, Escue Wood Treated Products operates on a closed-loop system that produces zero waste. The lumber is broken down into half packs, then transported to a pressurization cylinder. A system of pumps creates a vacuum inside the cylinder, then adds water, the copper azole liquid and a mold inhibitor to increase the lifespan of the wood. Once it has completed the treatment cycle, which takes close to an hour, the lumber is pulled out of the cylinder and allowed to dry. The Escues treat their lumber with two different mixtures of the copper azole treatment, providing lumber suitable for ground contact and above-ground uses, including floor joists, structural framing and others.
“The copper azole treatment allows the wood to last a lot longer than other treatment processes, such as MC-A,” said Escue. “The liquid absorbs easier and penetrates the wood better, and the process doesn’t degrade the chemical. All excess liquid is pumped back into our holding tanks.” Any liquid that escapes the cylinder is collected in drains and reused as well.
“It’s very important to me that everything we do is environmentally friendly,” said Escue.
Once the lumber has had sufficient time to dry, it is stored inside the EWTP warehouse. Keeping the wood out of the sun and rain prevents warping and provides customers with the best product possible.
“Traditionally, wood would have to sit for three to four days to properly dry out,” Escue said. “Our process gives us the ability to treat a load of lumber in the morning and ship it out in the afternoon.” The Escue Wood Treated Products system allows for seven full loads to be treated per day, resulting in 98 linear feet of wood per cycle.
Escue also said that the company is looking to add a second type of treatment in the future.
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve done with expansion in mind,” he said.