Hardwoods take time to grow and time to understand – a profile of The Rossi Group LLC
It was way back in 1925 that old Joe Rossi, head of an immigrant family from Italy, opened up for business in Connecticut, USA with his hardwood lumber business. In the time since then many young naturally regenerating forests State have matured with trees ready for harvest. In the same amount of time the company, still family controlled, has been through its ups and downs, finally maturing and emerging as a modern, technically led, producer of quality lumber for key domestic and export markets.
The Rossi family business was not always in the export market. In fact it was son Ted Rossi, now CEO, who pioneered the company’s first exports to Europe forty years ago. He always says his sole strategy was based on relationships. That came from Joe, whose pet phrase was always “Treat everyone you deal with as though they’re family” – so very Italian! Today the group is a major supplier to markets from Argentina to Vietnam, Belgium to Brazil and most places in between. And Ted has done more than develop the family business. He was the driving force behind the creation of the Hardwood Federation, the industry’s voice in Washington DC, an essential method of alerting politicians to the issues of the day. He has chaired the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), is a Past President of the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) and has recently been very active in Asia with governmental negotiations on behalf of the industry that is his life.
Ninety years on, The Rossi Group still depends on Northern and Appalachian hardwoods, principally Cherry, Red Oak, Ash and Maples – both Hard and Soft. They grow slowly with tight grain, colour and texture that are preferred by many markets. Other species include Tulipwood (Yellow Poplar) and Northern hardwoods such as Birch and Elm. Exports run at around 40% of production with Chinese buyers as some of the most important, for whom thicker Red oak is a major item. In the Middle East the Group ships hardwood lumber to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Lebanon. The flagship sawmill of the group is Emporium Hardwoods with production capacity of 30 million board feet per year located in the heart of the Allegheny Plateau region of northern Pennsylvania, which is home to the very best Cherry America has to offer. Emporium has been known for over 40 years as a producer of excellence in American hardwoods, with superior White Ash, Hard Maple and Red Leaf Soft Maple in 4/4 up to 8/4 as well as a limited production in 4/4 and 5/4 Red and White Oak. Emporium offers colour sorting for Cherry, Ash and Maples on a 90/10 basis. Kiln capacity has been increased to ensure all exports can be shipped KD and major investments in technology have also been completed in the last few years. Jay Ward, General Manager at Emporium has been with Rossi for over 25 years along with several other members of the team. That wealth of experience is vital when dealing with the diverse specifications of discerning domestic buyers and for remote export buyers, where mistakes can be costly.
“Looking at the future, a lift in the Cherry market would be very welcome, especially as the Northern forests in Pennsylvania produce trees that are lighter in colour and relatively free of gum pockets, compared to the Cherry found in other regions, for example,” says Ted.
Scotland Hardwoods is also a premier manufacturer of Northern Hardwood lumber, located in Northeastern Connecticut known for consistent, superior manufacturing and quality forest products. It produces and markets over 10 million board feet of lumber, logs, and wood products annually in the United States, Canada and some international markets. The sawmill manufactures Northern Red Oak, White Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Birch, Ash, and Yellow Poplar from band re-saws that can produce thicknesses from 3/4″ to 12/4″ for furniture, flooring, cabinet, and millwork industries. The company’s full time staff of ‘State Certified’ foresters provide expert consultation and forestry services and offers landowners an unmatched level of expertise. Over the years, Rossi has earned the confidence of landowners upon whom the group depend for future business with a forestry management program designed specifically for those landowners who are interested in long-term management plans.
Exports are coordinated form the group’s HQ in Middletown, Connecticut by a team that may not have taken as long as the trees to mature but has a very long and well known track record.