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Bleckley Logger's Dream Questionable Due to Fuel Prices | Business

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Bleckley Logger's Dream Questionable Due to Fuel Prices
Bleckley Logger's Dream Questionable Due to Fuel Prices

His voice come across as belonging to one twice his age, and his words are full of season as Mackenzie Brown, 36, of Cochran talks about his logging business, Southern Pine Timber Company, his family and the latest increase in fuel prices.

Brown grew up in Bleckley County, and had been working in the “woods since I graduated from high school.”

He had worked for a local logging company during the summer and knew that is what he wanted to do.

In July of 2001, Brown started his own company. He was in his mid-20s. “I knew it was something I had wanted to do one day – own my own company – and for the reasons that most young men have in wanting to own their own businesses – you want to be rich.”

But as Brown developed skills while working for other loggers, he saw beyond the dollars and found a real joy in the work.

Logging is not easy work – it involves the cutting, skidding, processing, sometimes on-site, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks. Skidding involves taking the trees or logs by a chain and pulling them through the land.

And Brown felt like after years of working for others that he could do it. “I had been working in Brunswick working with a chipping crew, and staying in a hotel. When I would come home on the weekends, I would talk to my mom and dad, and one time, we were having dinner, I told them that I could do this on my own. My dad told me to put it down on paper.”

Brown paused, “I was like, OK, and I did. I thought it would be easy. So I started putting numbers together and then I thought, no, this would be crazy, and I didn't mention it again for two months.”

On another weekend trip home, Brown's dad asked him where the plan was. Brown showed him the plan, and with his dad's hep, in a loan, he was able to start his company. “I was so nervous. I worked seven days a week and worked hard. I didn't want him to lose his money, and we were rocking along and I did well, and was able to get his name off the loan.”

The logging business, not just Brown's but the industry overall, has been on an up and down swing for a number of years. Brown's company had “been making a name for ourselves. We had two crews going, and it was good. Then the fuel prices started hiking up again.” Brown wasn't sure what he was going to do, and he had to downsize and cut one of his crews. “It got to be hard, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

It was then that Brown decided to make change. He contracts with truck drivers and is down to the barest of minimums. “I run as efficient as I can.”

But even with being down to the basics, Brown is concerned about the most recent hike in fuel prices. “People don't realize that it is not just gas that is going up, but all petroleum based products are effected by the increase in fuel prices.”

He said, “The gas does hurt us.” Brown and his drivers do most work outside of Bleckley County, and currently are driving about an hour and half going and coming during a regular work day. “We're talking thousands of gallons of gas a week.”

And oil for the vehicles and the equipment has gone up as well. “It is costing me all the way around.”

Brown is trying to keep a good eye and prepared for leaner times. “I got my drivers together and we talked about what we would have to do if the increase in fuel prices continue.”

Pausing, Brown said, “We are going to have to stop. We are already working for almost as close to free as we can.”

Through all the hard times that Brown has been through with his company, “I just kept pushing through. There was a time when I first started out that I wanted to quit, but I didn't. I just keep moving through it.”

But this time, he is not sure if they can. “I have been praying about it, and talked to my family. Gas at the Love's Truck Stop was $4.04 a gallon.”

He and his drivers agreed that they would stop at “$4.25 a gallon. We will finish the job we've started – I won't ever leave anyone hanging – and then we will just have to take our equipment home.”

Brown said, “We will work on the equipment for a while and just see what happens.” Eight families would be effected by the change in the company if that happens.

If Brown doesn't see fuel prices going down after that, then, “I will sell my equipment and just go to work for a logging company.”

He added, “You do what you have to do.”


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