Diversified by design
Business View Magazine interviews Joe & Marco Carrier, co-owners of HPP Inc., for our focus on the Forest Products Industry in the U.S.
Located towards the east of Henniker, New Hampshire, just off the Franklin Pierce Highway, stands the headquarters and production facilities of HHP Inc. – an impressive integrated forest products company. The family-owned firm is one of the largest forest product manufacturers in the State, producing a wide range of products for local and international markets.
HHP Inc. has been in business for more than 55 years, having grown over that time to become a significant lumber outfit in the area. Alongside its stellar growth, HHP Inc. is also proud of its strong sustainability roots, touting the company’s zero-waste manufacturing processes as a sign of its dedication to protecting the environment.
HHP began in 1966 as Henniker Hardwood and Pallet. In 1998, Ross D’Elia and Richard Carrier purchased it from the local owner, rebranding it to HHP. From 1998 onwards, the new owners focused on consolidating and growing the business, investing over $20 million over that time to create the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that stands today. According to Natalie Crane, Head of Green Lumber Sales at HHP, “Between 1995 and 1998, HHP made significant changes including purchasing the current land we occupy, plus setting up a brand-new roundwood chip facility and the current pallet shop division.”
Around 2017, Marco Carrier and Joe Carrier, Richard Carrier’s brother and nephew, respectively, joined the company – taking on significant roles as Ross D’Elia transitioned to retirement. “We have been in the logging business since the ‘60s when my dad used to take log harvesting contracts for paper companies,” says Marco Carrier, co-owner of HHP Inc. “We subsequently evolved into sawmills, trucking, logging, and mulch and pallet manufacturing, which are all different branches of the overall family business.”
HHP’s services focus on three main products: hardwood boards, roundwood chips, and pallets. With a fully integrated supply chain, including 2 complete logging crews, the company supplies up to a third of its material needs internally. “HHP manufactures around 13 million board feet of green and kiln-dried lumber per year,” reports Joe Carrier, co-owner at HHP Inc. “Our central location in the southern tier of the state enables us to utilize the hardwood timber native to our area, primarily Red Oak, Hard Maple, Soft Maple as well as White Birch, Ash and Yellow Birch.”
The company’s roundwood chip business produces 100,000 tons of clean, high-quality wood chips, serving pulp and paper mills throughout the Northeast. The chip yard products include sawdust, hemlock bark and chips, hardwood bark and chips, pine bark and chips, and roundwood pulp.
HHP is the largest manufacturer of standard and customized hardwood pallets in New Hampshire, shipping 1,300 trailer loads of pallets – about 600,000 pallets – each year. “HHP makes pallets according to more than 400 specifications in our 30,000 square-foot pallet shop,” Joe explains. “All pallets designated for export are heat-treated, certified, and stamped in compliance with the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures, or ISPM-15, with all our processes audited by the National Hardwood and Lumber Association.”
HHP’s main manufacturing facilities are housed within a sprawling 44-acre lot at 14 Buxton Industrial Drive in Henniker and staffed with a team of 75 full-time employees. “Our company is unique in our industry because we offer all our workers full benefits including health insurance, 401(k), and paid vacation,” says Marco. “Something we strongly believe is the reason many of our employees choose to stay with us for the long term.” Besides the main facility in Henniker, the company also has several sibling companies spread across Maine and New Hampshire. “Some of our other facilities and complementary businesses, like our trucking business, are housed in those other facilities,” adds Marco.
HHP’s sales footprint extends into Canada with additional export business to international markets. “Our business footprint covers the southeastern part of Canada, including Quebec and Montreal, plus we also do some overseas exports to the Shanghai market through our partner, Shanghai AM,” says Crane. “Shanghai AM Forest Product Co, Ltd, was founded in 2001, and over the last ten years we’ve been doing business with them, they’ve become our trusted partner as a leading distributor of Northern American hardwoods in China,” adds Marco.
Servicing such a large market requires strong manufacturing capabilities, an area where HHP’s strengths genuinely shine. Joe notes, “All our facilities are semi-automated, and since the entire industry is at the same level, we consider our operations to be cutting-edge.” The company conducts major upgrades every five years or so based on new and mature technologies in the market and internal requirements that precede any upgrades. He adds, “Year over year, we make investments in various aspects of the business, like upgrading the scanning technology or expanding our manufacturing capabilities. In some areas, the automation investments we have made have translated into a 100 percent increase in production.”
In keeping with this investment trend, the company has recently begun the first stages of implementing a state-of-the-art automated lumber grader from Comact, a first in the industry. “Traditionally, every piece of lumber is visually inspected by a person to determine the grade mark,” Joe explains. “Although it has been difficult to automate this task, the use of advanced scanners and machine learning has opened the door for such machines to enter the market, and we are among the first companies to adopt the technology.”
As part of an industry that directly impacts the environment, HHP is doing its part to ensure sustainability by practicing responsible forestry and running a zero-waste facility. “Since we do some of our own logging, our foresters ensure everything is done according to forestry practice standards,” says Marco. “For debris or by-product, we are fortunate to have a partnership with a successful NH based wood pellet manufacturer, so all excess chips are utilized in that process while all our bark goes to a biomass electric plant.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every industry sector, worldwide, and the timber industry has been no different. Although the lumber business was deemed essential and was not shut down, the pandemic did have some fringe effects on HHP’s business. “Shipping was a bit more difficult with the pandemic,” shares Marco, “and we also saw a reduction in production as more people stayed home to quarantine even as demand skyrocketed.”
Besides the challenges related to the pandemic, HHP is also grappling with an industry-wide labor shortage, as fewer people seek careers in vocational trades. According to Joe, “We do see a general labor shortage but more specifically in specialized trades like machine operators, who typically require some industry knowledge and experience before getting started. Since such tradespeople are difficult to come by, we do our best to retain the ones we have and cross-train them; increasing the employees’ efficiency and making the company more agile.”
Looking forward, HHP is banking on continued investments in facility upgrades and the expansion of its manufacturing capabilities to serve a growing market. “Besides adding new facilities like warehouses, we are also looking at manufacturing semi-finished products that meet specific customer needs,” says Marco. “Essentially, we want to become a custom manufacturer for whatever our customers need.”
Joe Carrier sees the family business diversifying further in the future, a critical competitive advantage the company currently has. He shares, “HHP is unique because our diversified capabilities allow us to easily and quickly adapt to changing markets. We can roll with the punches and exploit whatever opportunities come our way, while maintaining a safe, clean and efficient work environment for our workers.”
AT A GLANCE
What: A leading integrated forest products company
Where: Headquarters in Henniker, New Hampshire
Shanghai AM Forest Products Co., Ltd.
Shanghai AM Forest Products Co, Ltd was founded in 2001. Over the past 20 years, it has become the leading distributor of Northern American Hardwoods in China. We carry lumber in all species with all specifications and serve customers nationwide. We are working on a digital platform integrating the whole industry and it will be online soon.