MacDonald & Owen Lumber Co. taps global markets
When Archie MacDonald founded the MacDonald & Owen Lumber Co. in Bangor in 1970, he aimed to provide high-quality hardwood products and exceptional customer service.
The company—which today is headquartered in West Salem and has production facilities in the Polk County community of Luck—delivered on the founder’s vision. Its 143 employees produce a wide range of hardwood products, including cribbage board inlays, restaurant tables, doors, baseball bats, and much more. Its ripped-to-width lumber gives customers precisely measured quantities of northern and Appalachian hardwoods, as well as imported lumber. Its wood components division produces drawer sides and fronts, moldings, dovetailed drawer parts, face frames, paneling, and other products.
World markets offer challenge and opportunity
The company recognized the promise of expanding to international markets to grow demand for its products.
Since 2021, it has shipped its products to 36 nations. That benefits the company’s 114 Wisconsin-based vendors, who help it compete globally by helping maintain the pipeline of raw materials.
The company built close relationships with more than a dozen freight forwarding partners that allow it to negotiate low freight prices while making timely shipments. Moving lumber by truck can be challenging because of road weight limits. By working with trucking partners, MacDonald & Owen was able to secure reliable trucking on lightweight trucks into the Minneapolis intermodal rail yard, increasing export product quantities by 10% per load.
It relies on more than 30 Wisconsin-based trucking firms to move its products into domestic and international supply chains. MacDonald & Owen also contracts with steamship carriers to attain lower rates on high-volume lanes, such as those to Asian nations.
Satisfying hardwood demand globally
The rewards are apparent. MacDonald & Owen notched more than $280 million in sales to foreign customers since 2021—sales that accounted for 23.2% of its business during that time. International customers use the company’s hardwood products in everything from furniture manufactured in China and Vietnam to Turkish window frames and Italian furniture. In the United Kingdom, coffins are regularly made from Wisconsin red oak.
MacDonald & Owen’s success in the international marketplace earned it the 2023 Governor’s Export Achievement Award.
The firm has participated in ExporTech™, a WEDC-sponsored program that helps small and midsize Wisconsin companies tap into new markets with a customized export expansion strategy.
“We know we have a role to play in helping advance the awareness of what Wisconsin has to offer in the form of hardwood lumber products,” said Clint West, MacDonald & Owens’s CEO. “ExporTech was helpful to us because they gave us some good tools to understand how international transactions happen.”
The company also took advantage of International Market Access Grants to help it gain international exposure.
“We were able to get to more trade shows because of those grants,” West said. “We were able to completely catapult the business into a broader market space.”