WELSH SUCCESS STORIES

Premier Forest Group

Premier’s small seeds grow to wood business worth hundreds of millions. Building a business in timber; cultivating a legacy of sustainability.

Since 1993, Newport based Premier Forest Group has been leading the way in all things timber, from processing and sawmilling to importation and distribution. What began as a one-site timber importing operation now boasts 14 sites across the UK and Ireland and a turnover set to reach £125 million this year.

From small seeds grow mighty oaks, and that’s exactly what happened to Premier. Dilwyn Howells, Nigel Williams and Terry Edgell established the firm when they realised there was a gap in the market for an independent importer of timber and timber-based products in Wales. Fast forward 25 years and the firm has rescued and revitalised a number of pre-existing businesses across the UK and welcomed them to the Premier brand portfolio. These include Brooks Timber and Building Supplies, Dublin Plywood and Veneers and Clarks Wood Company, among others.

Driving these acquisitions forward was Terry Edgell, director and co-founder of Premier. Terry and his team transformed the dwindling businesses with site relocations and smart investments and the ever-growing portfolio has helped turn Premier Forest Group into a company with a sales revenue of over £125 million, securing hundreds of jobs in the process.

In terms of financial growth, Premier made a pre-tax profit of £4.08 million in the year ending April 2017 – up from £3.35 million the previous year. Already the firm are set to see improvements once again this financial year as profits are currently standing at £5.4 million, demonstrating consistent and sustainable profitable growth.

Terry credits the firm’s innovative approach to sustainability as a key ingredient to their success. As one of the industry’s key operators, Terry is conscious of the role Premier plays in influencing its suppliers across the globe to see the value and importance of improved sustainability and management of natural forest resources. Premier’s sustainable credentials were celebrated in 2016 when the firm won the Timber Trade Journal Environmental Achievement Award in recognition of their £2 million investment in energy saving technology and landfill reduction in the last three years alone.

The action undertaken by Premier Forest Group in reducing the industry’s carbon footprint has included the installation of a full biomass gasification system at its Newport Docks headquarters. This decision led to the company’s headquarters becoming carbon negative for the first time.

The group produce 1,250 tonnes of wood waste annually at their Newport site which is fed in to the gasifier which saves the business nearly £100,000 a year and allows surplus electricity to be exported to the National Grid.

Solar technology has been hugely important in ensuring the group has been able to grow and develop sustainably. All three of the firm’s sawmills invest in solar technology and these provide enough electricity to power all offices, warehouses and machinery.

Most important to the firm is the source of the timber they use every day. Premier Forest Group only supply wood products originating from sustainable, legal and socially responsibly managed forests and operate a strict purchasing policy to guarantee its impact on the environment is minimised. The firm’s own sawmills prefer to source logs from within a 50-mile radius of sites from which they are based.

Terry credits the firm’s substantial growth to the quality and commitment of Premier’s staff. Rewarding and cultivating staff members is equally important. When an acquisition is made, ensuring job security is top priority, even if this means retraining staff or creating new roles. Terry and the senior management team at Premier Forest Group encourage and value staff loyalty, which has resulted in multiple staff promotions thanks to the support and training opportunities available.

Outside of Wales, as one of the biggest employers in the south Cornwall area, Duchy Timber (one of Premier’s recent acquisitions) donates free wood to local schools to promote recycled use of its products and to financially support technical workshops at state schools.

Terry Edgell has been submitted as one of the 100 Faces of Vibrant Economy. Further information can be found here: https://faces.grantthornton.co.uk/