By Loren Lindler
Whether you're talking about residents, employers, or even timber, rural Georgia is constantly growing and Battle Lumber Co. Inc. is no exception. Founded in 1962 by Wayne and Rebecca Battle, the mill started with eight employees in Wadley, Georgia. The company has spread its rural roots over the years and now employs around 350 people and manufactures lumber products that are shipped both domestically and internationally.
The state of Georgia proves to be a leader in many things, including the forestry industry. Forest land covers approximately two-thirds of the state, accounting for 22 million acres of working forest land, making Georgia the #1 forestry state in the nation. Since the beginning, Battle Lumber has been at the forefront of Georgia's timber industry.
Rural Roots: Battle Lumber Company is a family-owned and operated hardwood and pine sawmill located in Jefferson County. Through innovation, automation, optimization, and hard work, the team has become an industry leader in the manufacturing of grade lumber, pallets, cross ties, crane mats, and byproducts. They stand as one of the largest hardwood sawmills in the country located on one site.
What makes them heroes? Battle Lumber Company is one of the largest employers in the area. Employing over 350 people, there are so many people that have contributed to the success of Battle Lumber. Current and prior employees have been a vital part of making the company successful.
"If we are truly looked upon as heroes, we are only in that position because of the dedicated employees we have had through the years that have propelled us to where we are today," shared Bob Swan, General Manager of the Pallet Division and founder Wayne Battle's son-in-law.
Something they want every rural (and non-rural) Georgian to realize: "Forestry is one of the leading manufacturing sectors only behind food processing, according to a comparison done in 2018 by the Georgia Forestry Commission," said Swan. According to the comparison, the food processing industry in Georgia employs over 68,000 with wages totaling over $4 billion, whereas the forestry industry employs over 55,000 with wages over $4 billion.
"Forestry is very important in our rural area because so many businesses depend on what we produce, and the jobs related to our industry," said Swan. "We are blessed to live where our resources grow."
Between landowners, manufacturing, building products, the paper industry, logging, trucking, and reforestation, Georgia is able to stay strong in the agricultural industry. Battle Lumber Company believes in keeping forests healthy for future generations, so they use best management practices, which are guidelines established to guide sound silvicultural operations.
Their impact on rural communities: “Battle Lumber's impact on rural Georgia extends well beyond the boundaries of Wadley," Swan said. "We harvest logs from a 200-mile radius, thus our impact reaches a broad area."
Battle Lumber also employs many graduates from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) and the University of Georgia (UGA), many of which grew up in rural communities.
As the company grew over the years being driven by product diversification, Battle Lumber added innovative equipment and new employees to help run the operation. Each phase of growth complemented each other, and Wayne Battle recognized the mill was big enough to bring more and more family back to the business.
Three generations of Battles have worked on the same site at once, all being taught that integrity is the key to doing business. The family roots at Battle Lumber Company run deeper than just immediate family. They live by the saying, "when you are here, you are family," and that is how they have carried out their daily operations. Battle instilled treating everyone with fairness and respect from day one, and that continues to hold true today.