History of Hunt Forest Products (formerly H&C Veneers and Hunt Plywood)

(The complete history will be published in an upcoming historical volume by Nicholas Ducote, to be published in 2015.)


In 1977, Alex Hunt Jr. and Henry “Hank” Clark, attracted by the record production, sales, and earnings in the southern softwood plywood sector, left Willamette and began H&C Veneers. The softwood plywood industry was on track for its second consecutive record-breaking year, with output to reach an estimated 19 billion square feet (3/8 in. basis).  The pair’s business relationship began years earlier when they worked together at Willamette in North Louisiana (see: Hunt Lumber Co. chapter for more details on Hank Clark’s arrival in the southern plywood industry).   As General Manager of Plywood Production for Willamette’s Southern Division, Clark “knew the business day in and day out.” He was “instrumental in developing” the company’s five plywood operations in Louisiana, which included Santiam Southern Company, Ruston; Santiam Southern Company, Haynesville; Woodard Walker Willamette, Minden; Natchitoches Plywood Division, Natchitoches; and Dodson Plywood Division, Dodson. Hunt, as vice-president of Willamette’s Southern Building Materials Group, oversaw four sawmills, four plywood plants, a veneer plant, and directed the management of 155,000 acres of timberland. After Hunt’s non-compete agreement with Willamette expired in 1977, Hunt and Clark partnered to form H&C Veneer Co., headquartered in Ruston, Louisiana.

In late-1977, H&C Veneer began constructing a pine veneer plant five miles north of Pollock in Grant Parish, Louisiana. Hunt served as president of H&C, while Clark served as vice-president and plant manager. The pair announced the new $1.5 million plant could employ approximately seventy “local people” and run three daily shifts.  They planned to produce both green and dry southern pine veneer and supply pine chips to surrounding paper mills. After construction was completed, Pollock operated “fairly well” as a veneer mill. By early-1979, H&C Veneer Co. was profitably producing green veneer and was expected to begin producing dry veneer by mid-1979.  Pollock and the surrounding timberlands had a rich tradition of forestry.  In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the Stuart Nursery – a cornerstone of the Kisatchie National Forest – near Pollock.  The plant’s close proximity to the Kisatchie National Forest provided H&C with ample logs with low transportation costs.

Like so many generations of Hunts before them, A.T. “Trott” III and James Davis “Jimmy” Hunt began their professional careers working with their father, Alex, Jr..  Trott worked at Ruston Industrial Supply during the summers while at Georgia Tech.  After Trott graduated in 1977, he worked at Ruston Industrial Supply for eighteen months.  He began in the sales department and worked as company president during his final six months.  In late 1978, Trott left Ruston Industrial Supply to serve as plant superintendent at H&C Veneer’s Pollock facility.  Trott resigned from H&C in mid-1979 and began working as an engineer at Willamette Industries in November 1979, continuing the Hunt family’s long relationship with the company.

Trott’s younger brother Jimmy started at H&C out of college, working at the plant in Pollock as the human resources person.  After a year in Pollock, Jimmy transferred to Ruston to work in sales.  He moved to Ruston and trained under Cotton Gilbert for another year.  For the next fifteen years, Jimmy managed Hunt Plywood’s sales department.  In 2005, Jimmy resigned from Hunt Plywood Company, ultimately moving to South Carolina.   He entered the lumber wholesale business.  He eventually became a partner in the Industrial Timber Company. From there, Jimmy started his own business, Main Street Timber.


Trott returned to work with his father in 1989 after gathering extensive experience with Willamette, which pushed the company forward into a successful expansion.  Much like when John Smoker Hunt and O.E. Hodge left Hodge-Hunt Lumber in 1903, Trott’s time away from Hunt Plywood provided him with fresh perspective and invaluable experience managing a roster of facilities.  In 1983, after working four years in Willamette’s engineering department, Trott was promoted to manager of the engineering department for Willamette’s Southern Division Building Materials Group.  In the management position, he supervised all engineering and project activities for Willamette’s Sothern Division, which consisted of five plywood plants, three sawmills and a particleboard plant.  In 1984, Trott was promoted to plant manager of Willamette’s particleboard plant in Lillie, La. and managed there for five years. When Trott left H&C, he had no specific plans to return, but explained that “working at Willamette prepare[d] me to come back to Hunt Plywood later, without a doubt.”  By the late-80s,  he “had a couple of other job opportunities … but turned them down just because I was preparing for a possible return.”  In 1991, after two years managing the Pollock facility, Trott was promoted to President of Hunt Plywood, with responsibility for the entire operations (sales, manufacturing and the forestry operations).  Trott spear-headed Hunt Plywood’s expansion over the next five years – adding a softwood sawmill at Castor, the Natalbany plywood plant, and finally a hardwood sawmill at Olla.  At its peak during this era, Hunt Plywood employed over 1,000 people.


In December of 1996, Hunt Plywood hired D. J. Young as President and Chief Operating Officer to initiate what Alex, Jr. called the start of a “new, progressive phase in [Hunt Plywood’s] history.” Faced with low inventories and high log prices, the company began looking for a stable business venture to offset the volatile plywood and lumber markets of the late 1990s. Across Louisiana, timber companies reacted to the shifting markets by moving away from the simple business model of the past to focus on implementing modern harvesting methods, technology, and resource utilization. Plum Creek converted its Joyce, Louisiana plywood and lumber mill into a modern sawmill, while Willamette expanded its sawmill at Dodson, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) plant at Simsboro, and converted its Taylor plywood plant. Young also changed the company’s name to Hunt Forest Products, to reflect the company’s “intentions of growth in the forest products business.”

Instead of modifying existing plants like other companies across the state, Young expanded into the chip industry with the purchase of four facilities in 1998 and 2000. Chips manufacturing was a simple business model that offered a stable, guaranteed customer base. In May 1998, Hunt Forest Products purchased their first chip mill in Bernice, Louisiana from Chips of Louisiana, Inc. William Colvin and C.A. “Mike” Reed Jr. opened the Bernice mill in 1973 by and it shipped 225,000 tons of hardwood and pine chips annually to the I.P. mill in Bastrop, the RockTenn mill in Hodge, and the Georgia-Pacific mill in Crossett, Arkansas.

2000s and Beyond

In May 2000, Hunt Forest Products expanded across state lines after acquiring the assets of Wood-Chip Corporation of Marshfield and Wood-Chip, L.L.C, which included aspen chip mills in Merrill and, Cornell, Wisconsin and Princeton, Minnesota.[vi] After the purchase, HFP took over all of the mill’s existing contracts. The Princeton mill produced chips for shingles, while the Cornell and Merrill mills produced them for paper, most notably Weyerhauser.[vii] Jim Hough explained that a “chip mill is only as good as its contract” Just a few years into their Midwestern chip manufacturing, they lost a number of their contracts.  In 2004, Weyerhauser decided to supply their own chips and the Merrill, MN mill lost their supply contract for clean chips. As a result, Hunt Forest Products sold the Merrill, WI facility. The following year, the company sold the Princeton, Minnesota mill after they were unable to find a replacement contract. After selling the Merrill and Princeton facilities, Hunt sold the Cornell, Wisconsin chip mill to Chippewa River Forest Management, L.L.C., in 2006. “In the end,” Jim Hough claimed, the three chip mills were “worth the investment.”