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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen ON THE FACTORY FLOOR: Timber Automation President John Steck, left, explains the company's production process Thursday at the Forest Products Technology Center to U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-District 4.

One-third of the state's congressional delegation saw Thursday how steel and other inputs are fabricated and fit together to make the heavy equipment and control systems used at lumberyards and sawmills.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-District 4, and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., toured the Forest Products Technology Center at Aviation Plaza as part of the small business listening tour they began Wednesday. The 145,000-square-foot facility is home to Timber Automation, the parent company of Baxley Equipment Co. LLC, Price LogPro LLC and Timber Automation Construction.

"We're trying to get good ideas and take those to Washington," Boozman told the group assembled for the tour. "Bruce and I were both small business people before we went to Washington. We understand how it is to write checks and worry about your employees' health care."

The lawmakers also touted tax relief businesses have received through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Congress passed last year, but it was state tax abutments Timber Automation applied for to incentivize its $3.5 million capital investment and the 50 new jobs it's added to the payroll.

It now boasts 270 employees that work day and evening shifts at the facility, where welders, fitters and fabricators on the shop floor turn designs drafted by the engineering department into the crane grapples, edger feed tables, screw roll conveyors and board scramblers that move, sort and cut logs and lumber.

"I think there's people in Hot Springs that don't realize how wide the footprint is of this company," Westerman told the group. "I was at a mill in Washington state and there was Baxley Equipment everywhere. It's neat to be that far away and say that comes from my hometown."

Timber Automation President John Steck showed off new equipment that has helped the company fill orders faster, reducing production time by half in some instances. Westerman reminded him of new depreciation rules offered under the tax bill that allow businesses to deduct the entire cost of purchases during the first year. Full-expensing is permitted until 2023, and the previous depreciation schedule won't be reinstituted until 2027.

Steck said another 15 welders, fitters and machinists are needed to keep up with demand, a refrain Westerman said he heard from manufactures at earlier tour stops. The company is holding a job fair Saturday to recruit more help.

"The message we've heard everywhere is we need more welders and machinists," Westerman said. "There's a lot of work being done in the state in our two-year colleges and tech schools to get more tech education out there."

Local on 05/04/2018

Print Headline: Listening tour sends lawmakers to Timber Automation

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