By Lindsay Mohlere
When a logger decides to take up the challenge and start his own business, the road can be littered with a myriad of fears and obstacles, all seemingly impossible to conquer.
Of the many who have attempted and succeeded, few have seen their company expand as fast as Glenn Bottensek, owner-operator of Iron Horse Logging.
Raised in a logging community, Glenn graduated from high school and went right to work in the woods. “I graduated on Friday and was setting chokers on Monday,” he says. From there, Bottensek spent nearly 30 years working for other logging outfits until 2004 when he decided to go it alone.
Bottensek named his company Iron Horse Logging to reflect his wife’s passion for horses and his own passion for logging iron. “My biggest problem when I started out was financing. We (my wife Tina and our boys, Chris, Adam, and Ryan) bought an old log loader, and from there we went. And we just kept going,” he says.
And “kept going” he did. In the 12 years Iron Horse Logging has been in business, the company has literally galloped from one small side to currently running eight tower and two ground-based sides.
Bottensek attributes the rapid growth of his company to having good employees and good management. “Our growth has been fast, almost unheard of. Sure, I’ve taken big gambles, but we’ve got good employees and good management. A lot of our guys are very good friends. Guys I’ve grown up with, people I’ve worked with for 20 plus years. My three boys are also active in the company. I couldn’t get by with anything less.”
The Challenge of Growth
Iron Horse Logging Inc. employs over 80 people, but Bottensek says his biggest challenge now is what they have coming up for employees. “We run a pretty smooth operation with good people, but I’m really concerned about replacements. Not a lot of young people are interested. The average age of our employees is mid-to-late 40s. We’ve got several guys that are well past retirement age. We’re all getting old.”
Bottensek explains that the company strives to take good care of employees by offering a family wage, a 401k, and sick leave. In addition, the company provides health, dental, and optical insurance for employees with provisions for family if desired.
Still, like many other logging operations, Iron Horse has found that finding qualified applicants or the “right” guy is a major obstacle.
In an effort to alleviate the problem, the company has taken on several new employees who have no real experience and trained them to be part of the operation. However, the trainee needs to have certain native skills to succeed.
“A kid has got to show interest. We put them with someone with good training skills. Put them under the wing and keep them out of harm’s way,” Bottensek says. “You can usually tell the first day or two if they’re going to make it. Can’t be afraid of getting a few bruises and scrapes. Those guys start out setting chokers in the brush. Before they get their rigging legs, they spend a lot of time on their stomach and back. It’s hard work.”
Bottensek places a lot of blame for the lack of qualified applicants on environmental/societal issues and the lack of understanding in the high schools, in that teachers don’t reinforce a kid’s desire to be in the timber business or become a logger.
“Kids need to realize that they don’t have to go to college and create a bunch of debt for themselves, to get a good paying job and support a family. It’s here … if they want to work,” he says.
No Shortage of Work
Currently Iron Horse’s ten logging sides are working for NW Hardwoods, Roseburg Forest Products, Guistina, Roseboro, Seneca, Weyco, Boise Cascade, and Swanson Superior. Bottensek says he could field even more sides if he could find the help. “We log for just about everybody. The work is here. There’s no shortage of work.”
Cutting is contracted out. Iron Horse provides its own lowboy hauling while contracting with PER Trucking LLC to handle its log hauling duties.
The company’s scope of work deploys crews to high production jobs and low production thinning sides in the coast range and the Willamette Valley.
“At times, we’ve had half of our sides on low volume thinning jobs, and then at other times, we’ve had two-thirds of our crews on high-production clearcut jobs,” Bottensek says.
Iron Horse runs a variety of big towers for long-span sides running skylines out to over a mile. It also has shovel-logging sides and ground based thinning sides using grapple skidders and track skidders.
While the company doesn’t do cut-to-length, it does tackle government sale cable thinning jobs where a cable is centered in the 12-foot wide corridors spaced 150 feet apart, and they go in and thin to the corridor edge. A slack pulling carriage pulls the turns to the corridor where they are then yarded to the landing.
To handle the work, Bottensek relies on several different manufacturers and forest machines. The equipment stable features CAT, Madill, and Doosan machines, but Link-Belt log loaders and processors are the preferred and predominant brand.
“Link-Belt products are excellent. Their service is excellent, there’s nothing like it,” he says, noting that the customer commitment of Triad Machinery of Eugene, Oregon, is second to none.
The equipment roster features 14 shovels and 14 processors, which make up 10 complete yarder sides and two ground-based sides. The mix includes Link-Belt 240s, 210s, and 290s, along with CAT 300 series machines and a few Madills and a 2016 Doosan. Denharco and Pierce delimbers along with Waratah processors are also utilized.
Most of the towers are Thunderbirds, including a TMY 50, two TTY 50 towers, a TTY 70, and two TY 90 yarders. The company also uses four Berger towers and a 3800 Madill yoder. ACME and Boman carriages are preferred.
The company does not have a particular equipment philosophy when it comes to how long a piece of iron should remain in their stable. “We base that on the condition of the machine,” Bottensek says. “If it’s still running good and is productive, we stay with it. If we start having issues, we get rid of it.”
To help keep the company keeping on, Iron Horse also has four full-time mechanics tending the machines. Usually two stay in the field, while the other two occupy the shop.
The Drive to Succeed
“We’re a proud company,” Bottensek says. “We take a lot of pride in our work. We took a lot of chances to get here, but success means to be able to provide jobs for our employees. Success also means to be able to provide a future for my boys and their families. My wife works in the office and so do my daughters-in-law. I feel blessed to have them.”
He adds, “We have done more in the past, but now we’ve leveled out. We found the fine line where we want to be. I work with my boys every day. There’s no slowing them down. They go full steam ahead. They’re here to make it work.”
On the Cover
Photo taken at the 2016 Oregon Logging Conference
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