Bob Ellis/staff photographer – Cortland Standard
Matt Gutchess, left, and his father, Gary Gutchess, stand Wednesday at the Gutchess Lumber Company on McLean Road in Cortlandville. Matt Gutchess has been named president of the company, taking over from his father, who will remain as chairman of the board of directors. Reprinted with permission from the August 13th, 2015 edition of the Cortland Standard newspaper, Cortland, New York – www.cortlandstandard.net.
Family Legacy Lumbers On
Fifth-generation son taking over as head of Gutchess
By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
CORTLANDVILLE – One of the town’s oldest businesses is in the midst of a transition as Matt Gutchess takes over as fifth-generation president of Gutchess Lumber Co., succeeding his father, Gary Gutchess, who is stepping down to chair the board of directors.
As the great-great grandson of George Gutchess, who founded the company in Lapeer in 1904, Matt Gutchess, 41, is moving up from the post of vice president to run the company.
From the company’s headquarters at 890 McLean Road, Gary Gutchess, 67, said Wednesday, he has been president of the lumber company since 2010, but has worked there in some capacity on and off since 1968.
He said he is proud of the advances Gutchess Lumber has made over the last few years and said he is sure the company will continue to grow under his son’s leadership.
“Some people overstay their welcome (and) I want to go out when we’re winning,” Gary Gutchess joked. “I just think it’s time for Matt. He’s very well prepared for the job he’s stepping into. I’m convinced he’s going to do a good job.”
Cortlandville Town Supervisor Dick Tupper said this morning the Gutchess Lumber Co. is important to the town and the Cortland County community.
Recently, the lumber company agreed to a land swap deal with the town which could potentially lead to a newer, larger Citizens’ Park for residents.
Tupper said having been introduced to Matt Gutchess before, he thinks he will make a good president.
“He seems like a very, very intelligent young man,” Tupper said. “I think it’ll be good for the company.”
Matt Gutchess said Wednesday in the time between finishing high school and studying history at Cornell University, he learned the intricacies of how the company works and is prepared to oversee Gutchess Lumber.
“I’ve focused more on the operational side of the business,” he said. “Harvesting timber right through to saw-milling logs… (and) selling the lumber domestically and overseas.”
The company has a meeting scheduled for Friday morning with guests from China, one of the company’s largest customers and Matt Gutchess explained there is a high demand for the North American hardwood it processes in places like Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
But despite heading a company which processes timber from roughly 300,000 acres of forest a year and exports about 50 percent of its product, Matt Gutchess said he is not resting on his laurels and aims to keep innovating as president of the company.
“It’s good to to have that demand for the product”, he said. “Of course, we have many competitors who want to do a better job than we do. There’s always a challenge.”
Gutchess Lumber employs over 400 people and operates under an employee stock ownership plan, or an ESOP, meaning employees are literally invested in the success of the company. These are the people Matt Gutchess will rely on going forward.
“They’re revved up,” Gary Gutchess added. “They’re excited about doing a good job and how they can do it better and how the company can do better. That’s necessary. You just have to have a strong team.”
Gary Gutchess also said each generation has to “remake the business,” meaning they have to take the changing times into account.
Matt Gutchess said given the company is in the business of selling natural resources, he wants to examine maximizing its resources, citing waste sawdust as an example.
About 20 years ago, sawmills viewed sawdust as a waste product, he said. Today, those in the wood industry are realizing there is a market for it.
“We’ve seen that more and more,” he said. “That what we’ve considered byproducts of our process historically have become… revenue drivers. I think this is a good area for focus.”
Over the past few years, Gutchess Lumber has built a new sawmill and integrated Preble-based Paul Bunyan Wood Products – formerly owned by Gary Gutchess’ cousin Paul Gutchess – into the company after Gutchess Lumber acquired it just over a year ago.
As demand increases and the company continues to expand, both Gary and Matt Gutchess say as long as they stay innovative, the company is likely to be around for another 100 years.
“The future is potentially very bright,” Gary Gutchess said.
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