TimberPro sale announced; plant will stay in Shawano

Deal intended to continue legacy of founder Pat Crawford

Leader photo by Carol Ryczek TimberPro plans to keep its doors open at its facility in the Shawano industrial park even after the pending sale to Komatsu.

The pending sale announced this week of TimberPro, Inc., a longtime staple of Shawano’s manufacturing base, to Komatsu America Corp. is not a sign of an era ending, but a cementing of the company’s future in the community.

That’s according to TimberPro President Lee Crawford, who said the sale was structured to ensure that the legacy of the business his father, Pat Crawford, founded would continue.

“I was asked by my family to put a succession plan together about two years ago,” Crawford said. “I went through all the scenarios of how we could keep the plant going to the third generation.”

Crawford said that after a lot of deliberation with his eight brothers and sisters and the family’s 16 grand-kids, it was decided that teaming up with a large company was the best way to ensure that the TimberPro name and factory stayed in Shawano.

“That led us to making a deal with Komatsu,” he said.

Established in 2002, TimberPro is a manufacturer of purpose-built forest machines and attachments, offering tracked feller bunchers and harvesters, forwarders, wheeled harvesters, and felling heads.

Komatsu America Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Komatsu Ltd., the world’s second largest manufacturer and supplier of earth-moving equipment, consisting of construction, mining and compact construction equipment.

The sale is expected to close on April 1.

But there is an important condition to that sale.

“We wanted to keep my father’s legacy going,” Crawford said.

He said Komatsu plans on doing that.

“They plan on keeping our name, keeping our business structure the same, keeping our supplier chain the same and keeping our dealership the same,” Crawford said. “So at least for the foreseeable future, everything’s going to remain the same.”

That includes keeping TimberPro’s 40 employees, including Crawford and his brother, Sam.

“They’re very much committed to Shawano,” Crawford said.

The family has had a previous, though indirect history with Komatsu and in that case it did not end successfully.

Crawford said that was discussed with Komatsu representatives during the deal negotiations to ensure things would be different this time.

In 2003, subsidiary Komatsu Forest purchased Timbco Hydraulics, the first company Pat Crawford founded in Shawano, which had been sold to Partek Forestry in 2000.

Komatsu closed the former Timbco business down in 2009.

According to Crawford, Komatsu now regrets that decision.

“They feel that was one of the biggest mistakes they made,” he said. “They were new to that industry at the time. They’ve learned a lot over the years.”

Crawford said Komatsu now realizes that the company’s strengths lie in the community and the people in their workforce.

“Their strength is the people,” Crawford said. “When they buy a company, the people are the most important part of that company. They understand that and they are 100 percent committed to the Shawano factory and the Shawano people and keeping the jobs in Shawano.”

A Komatsu representative could not be reached for this story, but the company issued a statement about the purchase of TimberPro in a press release Tuesday.

“Acquiring TimberPro will strengthen the company’s position in the full-tree-length market and enables us to offer a highly competitive range of products for professional logging,” said Rod Schrader, CEO, Komatsu America Corp.

Crawford said he has no qualms about Komatsu’s experience with Timbco.

“I personally am not worried about that,” he said.

“I hope everybody in Shawano understands, it’s going to be a great thing for the people that work for us,” Crawford said. “There will be a lot more job security and the plant’s going to be there for a long time.”