Founded in 1950 by Burton Hankins and his brother Bewel, Hankins Lumber Co. Inc. is branching out from its roots as a small trucking company to deliver lumber from local mills to construction customers and lumberyards.
The Grenada County-based family business now employs 155 workers and manufactures more than 150 million feet of lumber annually. The company also manages southern yellow pine tree farms scattered across the state of Mississippi.
“This is a wholly owned family business that continues to grow and expand to meet market demands,” said Jerry Pigg, chief financial officer. “Our history and our future is the family.”
In the 1950s, founders Burton and Bewel Hankins began expanding their start-up trucking business by buying an existing planer mill in Winona. By the early 1960s, the entrepreneurs had added a new planer mill, sawmill and dry kilns to allow them to also manufacture their own lumber from Mississippi-grown timbers.
When Bewel died in 1971, Burton stepped up to provide leadership for the company’s growth. He incorporated in 1972 as Hankins Lumber Co., Inc. Five years later, the family-owned company constructed a new planer mill and then undertook a major sawmill renovation in 1999.
After their father died unexpectedly in 2001, Burton’s two sons Al and Lee assumed the reins and continued enlarging the family company into a state-of-the-art lumber business. In addition to upgrades to the sawmill and the addition of an Inovec Stereo Scan headrig carriage, Hankins Lumber added storage space for finished lumber inventory. New covered storage sheds totaling more than 63,000 square feet have since been built to provide better control over the company’s lumber inventory.
The company estimates the new equipment has increased its log manufacturing count by 20 percent and its lumber yield by five to six percent.
“To remain competitive in this industry, we must continue to improve our operational efficiencies as we do with keeping up with state of the art technologies,” said Al Hankins, company president.
Today, Hankins Lumber manufactures and sells graded lumber, primarily to outlets in Texas and other midwestern states. The company also grows its own timber on tens of thousands of acres of tree farms in Mississippi.
“We pride ourselves on our tree farms of southern yellow pine all across the state of Mississippi,” said Lee Hankins, company vice president. “We are always activity looking to purchase timber or land with pine timber to increase the thousands of acres we currently have planted. Our active re-forestation will keep us a viable leader in the industry for years to come. As an added plus it gives a wonderful habitat for all kinds of wildlife. Great care is taken in the maintenance of this forest land.”
Hankins Lumber sells multiple grades of Southern Yellow Pine dimension lumber, small timbers, and boards to the retail, treated, and wholesale markets. Lumber dimensions range from 2x4 widths up to 2x12 at various lengths. The mill saws exclusively pine, including loblolly, longleaf and shortleaf.
“Our lumber is quality marked by SPIB and is inspected on a regular schedule,” said Pegg. The national grading company rates the wood from #1 prime to #4 boards.
In 2014, the company dissolved the original trucking and lumber delivery arm of the business.
“We still ship by rail,” said Pegg, explaining the company is located adjacent to the Grenada Railway Company, which purchased the rail lines from CN Railroad. “The liability with trucking was just too great, so it was eliminated. Customers have their own trucks or hire outside truckers to deliver the lumber.”
Recently, a third generation of the Hankins family recently joined the venture: Joe Hankins is company sales manager, overseeing the Timber Sales Department arm of the business.
“We’re growing a new generation for the company,” said Pegg. “There are more waiting in the wings.”