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Wyoming weather a boon to Centennial Woods

Tuesday, June 11, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tom Dixon
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Wyoming commuters may not give much thought to the giant snow fences standing sentinel along the state’s highways, but Laramie manufacturer Centennial Woods has turned those unique structures into a thriving international business.


Snow fences look like giant wood pallets tilted to catch windblown snow and deposit it harmlessly in the plains before it can reach the highway. Drivers can breathe a sigh of relief for those stretches of protected road.


Two decades ago, University of Wyoming graduate John Pope looked at those fences and saw an opportunity. Scattered across Wyoming were millions of feet of beautiful, weathered wood being left to rot until it was unusable.


Meanwhile, aged barnwood – a decidedly unsustainable and, often fickle, resource – was trending among architects and designers.


“The wood slats used for Wyoming snow fences look similar to barnwood, but they have the advantage of being distinct, but repeatable,” explained Tyson Cartwright, business development manager for Centennial Woods. “We’ve worked with Bass Pro Shops, Whole Foods, Starbucks. These are big companies that need a clean, reliable, repeatable look for hundreds of stores, and you can’t do that with barnwood.”


Cartwright said Pope developed a relationship with the Wyoming Department of Transportation and started dismantling the old snow fences on behalf of the state, rescuing them from the landfill or from being burned.


Initially, Centennial Woods sold the wood as is. Today, they resaw and sand the wood for flooring, paneling, interior ceilings, exterior siding and more.


The products made from Wyoming snow fences can be found in every state in the nation, along with places like Japan, Kuwait, Russia, Australia, China, Singapore, the United Kingdom and more.


“That weathered, gray consistency is a universal look,” Cartwright said.


Centennial Woods employs between 30 and 50 people depending on the season. The company installs the snow fences and, after about 10 years, dismantles them again. The result is a profitable, sustainable product that saves lives on Wyoming highways and cash in taxpayers’ wallets.


As an international exporter, the company also brings outside dollars into Wyoming’s economy. And Centennial Woods plays its Wyoming origins for all its worth abroad.


“People find Wyoming kind of mysterious internationally, and even domestically. That plays to our benefit, because they see this as the Wild West; they see us as authentic,” Cartwright said.


That reputation has helped Centennial Woods earn new customers. The company has grown from selling products for cabins and rustic applications to providing weathered wood for innercity high rises, restaurants and other high-profile projects.


Shipping internationally can be daunting, Cartwright said, but the company has leaned on resources like the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to help with things like inspections and certifications, international shippers for assistance navigating customs and technology like Google Trends to identify potential markets.


The challenges are worth the rewards, assured Cartwright.


“We are proud to represent Wyoming globally. We are a sustainable company, we keep our neighbors safe in their travels, we create beautiful products and save taxpayers money,” Cartwright said. “We buy our supplies locally and support other local businesses. We want to see our economy thrive. That’s important to us.”

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