CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Scott Piper, president of Northeast Mill Services Inc., and Rick Grover, with a long career as an expert mechanic for sawmills throughout New England and Europe, were both honored by the New Hampshire Timberland Industry Association (NHTOA) with this year's Outstanding Forest Industry award. The awards were presented at the NHTOA's 107th Annual Meeting, held May 19, 2018, in Chesterfield, N.H.
In Scott's career he has been involved in the new construction of more than 50 sawmills and 400 sawmill improvement projects. His business rode the wave of vast expansion of the grade lumber industry of the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, where automation in lumber handling and optimization (computer based scanning and data collection) were transforming the 200 year-old labor-dependent industry into a technological marvel of efficiency.
Born in Bangor, Me., Rick discovered a love of machines and how they work at a young age. What he enjoys most, he says, is looking at a machine, watching it run, looking and listening for problems, and solving them. “You’ve got to love them,” he says, “love them like the machines are your children. You can feel when they’re running right, you can hear it when the blade is fresh and the carriage is lined up right.”
He’s largely self-taught, though he says he was “fortunate that I came up at the tail-end of when the old guys were still around. I learned a lot from them. They had a real knack and a common-sense way of doing things. They were practical, and they knew machines. It was a great education for me.”
Rick got started installing equipment in a bakery, but by the mid-1970s he had moved into sawmills. He has installed equipment in sawmills all over New England, and he also did some installations in European mills. He connected with Scott Piper in the late 1990s and has worked with him ever since. Rick also has had a long relationship with Allard Lumber in Brattleboro, Vt., helping CEO Cliff Allard devise new, more efficient, more productive ways of moving wood through the mill.
“A good machine will save time, money, and work, and a good machine will give you a good product in the end,” he says. “Good machines have made this industry what it is – good machines and good people. It’s a partnership, and that’s the way I feel when I’m working on a machine and trying to figure something out. A partner.”
A slower pace seems to suit Scott for now. Though he is admittedly winding down a bit in his 70s and stopping a bit more to smell the roses or maybe “go up to camp,” he is still a busy man. “I don’t think I’ll ever really retire,” he says. “I enjoy solving problems and I enjoy the people in this industry. I believe in the people in the lumber businesses and I like working with them.”