Jack Bell takes a long view of the forests of Vermont
Forester Hale Morrell works at an active harvest site in Windham with Forest Service personnel. From the beginning, Long View took an integrated approach to forestry and logging. / Photos by Erica Housekeeper.
With an integrated approach to forestry and logging, Bell prioritizes forest health and the workforce.
by Christine McGowan, Vermont Forest Industry Network “Most of Vermont’s forest land is privately owned and fragmented into relatively small parcels,” said Jack Bell, co-founder of spyglass forest. “One of our goals is to ensure continuity and professionalism over time so that the long-term health and composition of the forest is always the priority, even if the land changes hands.”
Founded in 1999, the Long View model is unconventional in Vermont. First, the company offers logging, forestry consulting and forestry services, including invasive species management and young forest maintenance, all under one roof. Second, Bell’s vision is for the company to be around for at least two centuries, and it has a plan for that.
“It’s a tall order, but our vision is to build a business that will endure,” Bell said, “that Long View will be here 200 years from now. Forestry is a long-term business. You need continuity to have stability. The best forest management in the world spans many, many generations. We want to build a business that will contribute to that kind of stability for Vermont’s forests. »
Building a business and a workforce to last.
An important part of Long View’s vision is to focus on growing the business and providing employees with opportunities for career advancement. “We want a company where there are avenues for personal growth, so we can retain and attract top talent,” he said.
Employee Jack Dacey uses his chainsaw at an active harvesting site in Windham.
Bell’s journey into the forest industry has influenced how he thinks as an employer and business owner. From high school, he wanted to be a lumberjack. But, with no experience or connections, he couldn’t find a job. “I took a year off and moved to Maine, but nobody wanted to hire me,” he said. “I couldn’t find a job in logging, so I went to college.”
One summer, while working on a trail crew in the White Mountains, Bell met Jim Hourdequin, a student from Dartmouth who was interested in forest ecology and environmental politics. Hourdequin was working with a local logger named Russell Barnes to start the Yankee Forest Safety Network. Hourdequin introduced Bell to Barnes, finally giving him the entry into logging that had eluded him for years.
“I had no experience,” Bell said. “I showed up at Russell’s and he asked me if I had brought my axe. I said, ‘we can use axes’? That was 1998. In 1999, Barnes had offered to restructure his business to bring Bell and Hourdequin into the business, and Long View Forest was born.
Over 20 years later, Bell and Hourdequin are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to return the favor. About two-thirds of Long View’s employees come from traditional forestry backgrounds, with training and education that ranges from hands-on in local high school technical programs to two- and four-year degrees from schools like Paul Smith’s. College and the University of Maine, to master’s programs at the University of Vermont and Yale Forestry. But the other third, like Bell, has little or no formal training. “Our lead mechanic is a great example,” Bell said. “He came to us to do some logging, but we all noticed how good he was with the machines. We had never had a dedicated mechanic, but I asked him if he wanted to try. He agreed, and five years later, he’s helping us steer the company in whole new directions.
Owned by employees from the start.
When starting the business, Bell, Hourdequin and Barnes each invested $10,000 and accepted loans from family and friends. When Barnes retired in 2014, Bell and Hourdequin bought out his shares and expanded ownership to five, then 12, longtime employees. Today, the company continues to encourage its employees to pursue homeownership opportunities. In addition to the option to buy, Long View also awards “commitment shares” to dedicated employees after five years of service. This program added six more employee-owners, bringing the total today to 20 of the current 35 employees.
Long View co-founder Jack Bell started a recent January morning at Hanover Town Forest in New Hampshire. Long View, a company he co-founded in 1999, offers logging, forestry consulting and forestry services – including invasive species management and young forest cultivation – under one roof.
“The usual reasons for selling stocks are to raise money, retain talent and be fair to people,” Bell said. “We are thinking about it in reverse order. Everyone who is all in and dedicates their time and vital energy to this business contributes to the value we are building and should be part of it for the long term. It helps us attract and keep great people, but fundamentally it’s about fairness.
An integrated approach.
From day one, Long View has taken an integrated approach to forestry and logging. Bell and Hourdequin were graduates in biology, and Barnes shared with them his passion for improving forest stands.
As the company grew, the services were grouped into three distinct but overlapping areas: contracting (logging and related heavy work), forest management and forest services. “Being integrated is about both the mission and the fundamentals of the business,” Bell said. “If we’re going to be here long term, we need to deliver value to landowners and be profitable enough to keep the right people and pay them right. We believe that integration and diversification help us do our best work, be efficient and make it easier for property owners by offering them a great choice under one roof.
Alex Barrett, Long View shareholder and director of its forestry division, says many landowners will first come to Long View with the overall goal of “making their woods better.” But, he says, they don’t always know what that means on the pitch or how to start.
Alex Barrett, manager of Long View’s forestry division, says many landowners will first come to Long View with the overall goal of “making their woods better.”
In a project in Whitingham, for example, a client had recently purchased a new house which had just been found with 100 acres of forest. “The landowner had a steep learning curve when it came to forests, but wanted to enjoy his property and do good with the land. For him, that meant having a reliable ATV road network,” Barrett said, “and leave it better than he found it for future generations.
Long View brought its full range of services to the project, creating a forest management plan, constructing a multipurpose road network for logging, recreation and future forest enhancement, and completing a series of cuts two-acre plots throughout the property to increase wildlife habitat and structural diversity of the forest.
At another site in Putney, Long View guided a landowner to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which in turn funded forest stand enhancement, invasive works and habitat creation on the private 200-acre parcel. To ensure work was performed to NRCS specifications, which requires a complex mix of overlapping practices, each with performance metrics tied to funding, Long View Woodland Services technicians worked closely with the senior forester to implement invasive plant control prior to planning. timber harvest.
“A lot of what we do isn’t the traditional approach to logging where a contractor goes into the woods primarily to extract value for the landowner,” Barrett said, “so it’s useful that everyone works and coordinates under one roof so that we can meet the objectives of forward-thinking landowners.
Ultimately, the quality of forest management depends on the entrepreneurs who implement it. A sustainable forest and forest economy relies on a professional, year-round workforce that companies like Long View hope to sustain into the future. “Being able to work side-by-side with the people implementing the forest management plan is the main reason I came to work at Long View. This is how we help our customers achieve their goal of leaving the forest better than they found it.
The long view for Long View.
As Bell looks to the future, its goals for the company are as much about mission as they are about stability. “We continue to diversify and grow the diversity of our business,” he said, acknowledging that climate change and unpredictable weather conditions have impacted all parts of the business. “If we want to have high quality jobs and employ people all year round, we need to have stable work.”
In addition to improving forest stands and encroaching works, Long View has expanded to building roads and forest trails, planting and pruning trees, clearing and mulching brush and , most recently to the sale of full-length logging equipment for the Swedish company Rottne. “We’re branching out as fast as we can into areas that are at least a little less dependent on weather,” Bell said. “Warmer and more humid weather is a big concern and a big challenge.”
Ultimately, Long View’s vision of healthy, productive forests in Vermont is directly tied to finding new ways to bring – and keep – the next generation of forest industry professionals into well-paying jobs. who favor long-term vision over short-term gain. It’s not a new idea, but Bell and his team work every day to make it a reality.
Will Lehning, harvester operator for Long View, works at Hanover Town Forest in New Hampshire.
About the Vermont Forest Industry Network
Vermont’s forest products industry contributes $1.3 billion to the Vermont economy and supports more than 9,000 direct and indirect jobs in forestry, logging, processing, specialized woodworking, construction and wood heating (2017). These figures more than double when maple syrup production and forest recreation are taken into account. The Vermont Forest Industry Network creates space for strong industry-wide relationships and collaboration, including helping to promote new and existing markets for Vermont wood products. Learn more about www.vsjf.org