Neiman Enterprises: Neiman family strives to provide opportunities for small community
Hulett – The Neiman family values hard work, family and community. James S. Neiman started working in the family’s sawmill at age six, and Jim Neiman, current president and CEO, did the same. Today, the family still works together under the various entities within Neiman Enterprises.
“Eighty-one years ago, my dad bought an old sawmill, and we moved from Nebraska to Upton,” says James S. “In 1939, that mill burned down, so we moved to Hulett and rebuilt. We’ve been here ever since.”
Prior to the Neiman family moving to Hulett, they were corn farmers in Eades, Colo. A.C. Nieman started the sawmill in 1936. In 1958, Jim bought his brother out of the sawmill, and they’ve continued to build ever since.
“In the last 20 years, we’ve gone from 100 employees to almost 500,” Jim says.
For many decades, Jim says the sawmill business wasn’t easy.
“We were the smallest of seven major sawmills in the Black Hills for quite some time,” Jim explains. “In 1997, we made our first acquisition when we bought Rushmore Forest Products in Hill City, S.D., which doubled our production.”
In 2008, Spearfish Forest Products in Spearfish, S.D. was acquired, which again doubled production.
“We also acquired a pellet operation in 2008,” Jim says. “Heartland Wood Pellets produces pellets for wood burning stoves, and we do a small amount of horse bedding.”
In 2012, Montrose Forest Products, a stud mill in Montrose, Colo., was acquired.
“We continue to look for opportunities to grow,” Jim adds. “We’re not done building yet.”
Neiman Timber is also under the umbrella of the Neiman family and provides the logs for three sawmills in the Black Hills.
“Our timber company buys and sells the timber to the three sawmills,” Jim says. “Big logs are sorted and brought to Hulett.”
Devils Tower Forest Products
Devils Tower Forest Products in Hulett manufactures ponderosa pine lumber, producing over 40 million board feet of ponderosa pine lumber each year.
“We bring our bigger logs to Hulett,” Jim explains. “Our three biggest customers from this mill are Pella Window, Anderson and Marvin Windows. We’re one of the top suppliers of wood for these companies.”
In addition, they provide lumber for home improvement stores, like Menards and Home Depot.
All of the by-products from the sawmills – including bark, sawdust, chips and planer shavings – are utilized. Bark and sawdust are burned in boilers that power the kilns to dry the lumber and heat the buildings.
The shavings from the planer are bagged and sold as livestock bedding.
The logs with nails or other metal are provided to the community for firewood at no cost, since the metal is severely detrimental to the mill.
One particularly important aspect of Neiman Enterprises is their partnership with ranchers.
“We use a lot of timber from the Black Hills National Forest,” Jim says, adding that private lands are interspersed, as well. “Timber from private lands owned by ranchers really helps to supplement our supply.”
At the same time, the trees provide an additional “crop” for ranchers.
“Some ranchers look at their trees as a crop, rather than just a weed,” he explains. “Thinning trees is important, and it benefits both ranchers and us. A good relationship between our business and private timber lands is really critical.”
Jim emphasizes that family is incredibly important to Neiman Enterprises. He is supported by his wife Christy, and his son Marcus will eventually take over the operation.
His dad, James S., works at the sawmill and the ranch, and his mother, Sally Ann, is integral, as well. Sister Sheri Stinson manages the office. Brother Rick manages the Neiman 77 Ranch. Jim’s brother Kent works at the coalmine in Gillette, and Jim’s daughter Sonja and brother Kent both live in Gillette.
“One person can’t do it. This is a family operation, and our general manager and the team we’ve all put together is extremely important also,” he says.
Tom Shaffer serves as general manager of the company. Chad Voyles serves as CFO, Dan Buehler is head of Neiman Timber, and Mike Stevens works as sales manager.
“We also have plant managers at each location,” Jim says. “None of this would be possible without our team.”
Despite positive working relationships, Jim says that there are challenges that go along with operating the sawmill.
“Environmental issues are a big concern,” he explains. “If some endangered species hits the Black Hills, what are we going to do? We are facing the long-eared bat right now, and there are 90-some other listed or concerned species.”
Additionally, technology and the related expense is a continual challenge for the company.
“We experience a continuous transition in technology, and we have to stay up on it,” Jim says. “We have to upgrade our computers every few years, and we use state-of-the-art camera equipment for grading, trimming and more in the sawmill.”
“It’s an ever-changing world,” he emphasizes.
Supporting the community
“Our core emphasis is on the community, and our philosophy is to take care of family members and the people in our community,” Jim explains. “We can’t fail because it would be devastating for too many people, so we’ve had to figure out how to survive.”
“We have to have a community view,” he continues. “Now, our mills take care of four communities.”
After observing the impact of the spotted owl on the West Coast, Jim and his father looked at what helped communities survive, despite the challenges. The mill provides employment for many, but Neiman Enterprises pursued developing an airport and a golf course in Hulett to continue to enhance the community.
“My commitment to my dad and mother was to take this company two more generations – both the ranch and the sawmill,” Jim says. “My ultimate goal is to pass it on to the next generations. I’ve got a commitment from my son to do the same thing.”
“You get sawdust between your ears, and it penetrates, so I’ve always stuck around,” Jim says.
He continues, “My dad told me one day, we come into this world naked and we go out naked. What we’re remembered for is up to us. It’s not about money, it’s about how we give back and how we help people.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org