A centennial celebration is an impressive milestone, and for RoyOMartin, it signifies how the company has navigated tumultuous times while remaining an industry leader 

RoyOMartin celebrated 100 years in the industry when Manufacturing Today interviewed Roy O. Martin III. “We had our centennial gala, where we hosted about 1000 people. It was great fun, and everyone got home safely,” he reminisces. It has been two years since we first spoke with the company. In the first installment, we explored the success story of RoyOMartin, a family-owned, privately held forestry and wood products manufacturing company founded in 1923 in Alexandria, Louisiana. Led by the third-generation Chairman, CEO, and CFO Roy O. Martin III, the company has grown to own and manage 560,000 acres of land and three state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, positioning itself as a leader in the wood-product industry.

RoyOMartin’s key strengths include FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification since 2002, exceptional timber growth rates, and a unique, employee-centered mentality with generous benefits and profit-sharing plans. The company has also expanded into the natural gas production and pipeline business, diversifying its operations. To maintain efficiency, a new facility in Corrigan, Texas, was established in 2018 to increase capacity by 70 percent.

Finally, we also discussed the company’s commitment to innovation, which is evident through the development of new products like oriented strand board flooring and prime siding in plywood. Furthermore, RoyOMartin is actively fostering a more inclusive company culture by encouraging women to pursue careers in manufacturing.

This time, we were keen to learn more about how Roy O. Martin III has been navigating the impact of Covid-19, and labor shortages, and how he is maintaining hope for industry growth.

“Let’s start with 2020,” he begins, “when the world turned upside down on March 12th, it was a remarkable event in our history. We convened an emergency meeting with all our managers immediately after Louisiana’s Governor, John Bel Edwards, declared a state of emergency and shut everything down. Unlike many competitors who temporarily closed their plants, we stayed open. We opted for routine temperature checks and distancing measures to effectively navigate the pandemic. We also had 24-hour access to our employee medical clinic. I think that was crucial in making sure that everybody was safe. Consequently, after mid 2020, the market for the forest products company was strong. To this day, there is still tremendous demand throughout the country, so we survived very well,” Roy shares.

2022 was also a unique year in many ways. In one instance, it was the first year that lockdown restrictions significantly eased. In another, it was the first year that businesses needed to establish a ‘new normal.’ What did it look like for RoyOMartin? “During 2020 and 2021 hiring became immensely challenging. The first part of 2022 also saw significant hurdles, particularly after the Covid Omicron variant,” Roy continues. “As the year progressed, normalcy returned. Following upheavals and race riots in 2020 and 2021, the market stabilized in 2023. Surprisingly, the US housing market remained strong, even with the rise in interest rates. The millennial population is still wanting a single-family home as an American dream, and so we’re seeing that come to reality. The housing market slowed in the first part of 2023, with a rapid increase during the summer, and fell off again in October. I think housing stocks came in very strong for November, as we expected.”

In response to the pandemic, the company expanded by constructing a new plant in Texas to meet the demand for building materials. “We’ll be opening that facility very shortly. The main change we have made because of Covid-19 is expanding Corrigan OSB, L.L.C. There’s such a shortage of building materials and labor in the US that we’re trying to meet that demand for the future. As far as services go, we expanded our medical home to include a pharmacy for employees with less expensive costs than at large retail pharmacies. That’s been a big benefit to the employees. We’ve also added short-term disability benefits for all employees, not just salaried employees, but for hourly employees as well. It’s paid medical leave for circumstances like pregnancy, or unexpected illnesses and injuries; any situation that requires people to stay at home. We’ve also dramatically increased our profit-sharing contributions,” he explains.

Our conversation then turns towards Roy’s own career history, a topic we had not discussed in the previous article. “I started in the family business in high school, working in the woods, gaining hands-on experience. I painted landlines and assisted foresters in timber crews. After attending Louisiana State University for mechanical engineering, and graduating in 1982, I returned to build our OSB plant in LeMoyen, La., which happened to be the first plant of its kind in the southern United States.

“Later, in 1985, I earned my MBA from Louisiana State University. I’ve done just about every job in the company, except for being a doctor, and this diverse training has shaped my role as an effective Chief Financial Officer, Chief Executive Officer, And Chairman of the Board.”

He makes an interesting point. As someone who has worked across company operations, we were curious to learn how his family’s legacy is reflected in the values of the business. Roy had this to say: “I think the only reason that RoyOMartin has lasted 100 years is down to the values like respect, integrity, commitment, honesty, excellence, and stewardship, that we first implemented about 25 years ago. These are values that my grandfather, my father, my uncle, and my cousin have upheld throughout their tenure. We have attempted, and hopefully have succeeded, to pass them to our fourth and fifth generations. These attributes, alongside our top-ranked employee benefits, underline our dedication to our workforce, with profit-sharing, competitive wages, and unique medical services. I don’t know any other products company like us with a medical home, pharmacy, and mental health counseling, and I’m really proud to offer that for our folks.”

One hundred years is a long time to maintain a successful business. Furthermore, a great deal can happen over the course of a century, so we ask what changes Roy has witnessed during the company’s tenure. He shares that, more recently, safety has taken precedence, making the company the safest in plywood and OSB plants. Additionally, the innovative use of artificial intelligence developed with Smart Tech has helped enhance manufacturing efficiency, which has been a new development for the business. “We’ve become more focused on consistency and best practices, and a computer can control 24 hours a day, seven days a week – with human supervision of the process, of course. I think that’s the new and improved way that we’re going to run our manufacturing facilities. Because one thing’s for sure, the price of labor is going to continue to increase, so with the help of the latest tech, we can maintain some stability,” Roy explains, adding that he hopes to see the business continue to evolve in the years ahead.

On that note, looking ahead, the CEO shares that the long-term strategy for his family’s company is to further empower the leadership team and instill a succession plan to continue RoyOMartin’s legacy. “In ten years, we aim for more non-Martin family management while priming fourth and fifth-generation family members for leadership. No one is anointed; they must earn their positions. With a solid succession plan, the future looks bright. While forest products remain our core, we may diversify. We are ultimately in the people business, nurturing individuals to tackle future challenges.”

In conclusion, RoyOMartin’s 100-year journey signifies resilience and adaptability. As the company evolves, its commitment to values, employee well-being, and innovative practices ensures a promising future in an ever-changing landscape. The vision for a diverse leadership team and strategic succession planning reflects RoyOMartin’s determination to remain a successful organization for years to come.