New building will allow increase in production

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Within weeks, Southern Wood Floors will go from having too little space to having too much.

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Greg Hunnicutt, a co-owner of Southern Wood Floors, says the Augusta-based manufacturer will have 180,000 square feet of production and warehouse space after its move to the new building on Gordon Highway.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Greg Hunnicutt, a co-owner of Southern Wood Floors, says the Augusta-based manufacturer will have 180,000 square feet of production and warehouse space after its move to the new building on Gordon Highway.

The Augusta-based flooring manufacturer is planning to move from its cramped 40,000-square-foot facility on Wilkinson Road into 180,000 square feet of production and warehouse space on Gordon Highway.

Company owners say the new building, which is roughly the size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, will enable them to boost annual flooring production from 1.3 million square feet to as much as 2.5 million square feet.

"We were at capacity where we were at," co-owner Greg Hunnicutt said. "We weren't able to grow."

Southern Wood Floors' acquisition of the 7-acre property, and the additional manufacturing equipment that will go in it, amounts to a $2.5 million investment, the largest single investment by the company since it was founded 15 years ago by Mr. Hunnicutt and co-owner Charles Marks.

The new German- and Italian-made machinery being installed in the new building will make the company "one of the most modern facilities as you'll find anywhere in the country," Mr. Hunnicutt said. The new plant is expected to become operational in January.

The building at 1840 Gordon Highway, once the center of operations for Augusta Sportswear, has housed several tenants in recent years. Southern Wood Floors will occupy a little more than half the building and will lease the remainder until the company's growth requires it to take on additional space.

Southern Wood Floors specializes in wide-plank heart pine wood flooring, but it also produces flooring from hardwood such as oak and imported exotic woods such as Brazilian cherry and European silver maple.

Its "antique" flooring, made from richly textured wood recycled from 1800s-era buildings, is sought after by people restoring older homes and buildings.

The company sells direct to the public through its Web site and its store on Flowing Wells Road, but most of its product is sold through a national network of independent sales representatives.

"We have literally shipped to every state over the past 15 years," Mr. Hunnicutt said.

The company promotes its products as being American made and aesthetically superior to mass-market laminate wood floors sold through major retailers.

"Most of what the big-box stores sell comes from Asia," Mr. Marks said.

Fresh-cut pine comes to the facility from sawmills in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama in 1-inch-thick planks that are later milled to the desired size. Reclaimed antique wood arrives in any number of sizes, but usually in the form of large beams.

The company's engineered floor products are produced by shipping thin planks of new and antique pine to Swedish manufacturer Berg & Berg, which glues the planks to uniform sections of plywood complete with tongue-and-groove joints.

The two partners met in the 1980s when Mr. Hunnicutt, then working for lumber brokerage Forest Sales Corp., sold wood to Mr. Marks' Augusta Hardwoods, which produced crates and palates. They formed Southern Wood Floors in 1993.

Mr. Hunnicutt and Mr. Marks said the company, which employs 35 in Augusta, said the efficiencies created by the new building and equipment will likely not require them to hire additional workers.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.


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