Doug Muscanell and Karen Harbaugh’s hardwood business is blossoming in southwest Colorado with precision milling and a passion for manufacturing
“We are in a very unusual place to have a hardwood flooring mill.” Says Karen Harbaugh, co-owner of Muscanell Millworks. “We’re not close to the resource; we’re not in an area known for manufacturing.”
Muscanell is located in Southwest Colorado, in the transition zone between desert and mountains. Yet she and husband and founder Doug Muscanell, have managed to successfully build the flooring company for over a quarter of a century.
“We started out as a very small, specialty wood working company, then moved into flooring about 18 years ago,” says Harbaugh. “At that time, Doug had a vision. Rustic flooring had started to become very popular, but he felt it could be made with more precision and longer length. Because of his wood and machining background, he knew how to achieve the precision milling that we’ve become known for.”
And Colorado was where he wanted to manifest that vision. “Doug loved this area and the fact that the sun shines here in December, “says Harbaugh. “We wanted this to be our home for the rest of our lives.”
Currently they operate from their 30,000 square foot facility in Cortez, and do so in a domestic fashion. “Everything that we do is made entirely in the USA,” says Harbaugh. “From the growing of the trees, to the felling of the them, to all the processing at lumber mills to the manufacturing. We are also using every bit of the raw material that goes into flooring at our mill.”
But that is not necessarily what sets them apart from their competition.
“Today, our claim to fame is our precise milling, long average lengths and the special drying we do for the climates of the intermountain west,” says Harbaugh. “We recognize the importance of moisture control in our specific markets and we have been able to solve problems for our customers by managing moisture to a greater degree than any other flooring mill we know of.”
Harbaugh also feels well-served by the talent they have on board. “We were able to tap into a labor pool here,” says Harbaugh. “A lot of people complain about that here but we have been able to find people who are self motivated, dedicated, very hard working and they have been that way through good times and bad for us. Many of the young people we have hired come out of farming backgrounds, and there is a lot of similarity between farming and manufacturing. There is a lot of repetition and you need patience.”
Harbaugh and Muscanell are committed for the long haul and anticipate continued growth. “We have kind of grown up with the business and it is our family,” says Harbaugh. “We are dedicated to the same mission all along and sticking to that quality standard and excellent customer service. We also like working with each other and it makes everything stronger.”
Challenges: “Our main challenge is supply of raw material,” says Harbaugh. “That does not mean there is a lack of hardwood trees in the forest. The forests are growing and the hardwood companies are removing less timber than new timber is growing every year. The recession was very hard on the infrastructure of our industry, right down to the basic level of having enough skilled loggers.”
Opportunities: “We make a product called Woodchucks Fire Log,” says Harbaugh. “It is an all-wood, fire log made from pressed shavings and grindings with absolutely no additives. We would like to market the Woodchucks Fire Log more.”
Needs: “Manufacturing needs a good, healthy, business environment,” says Harbaugh. “We don’t feel like we have that right now. Though it may seem unrealistic, we need more predictability and stability in the economy.”