American Wood Fibers celebrates 30th anniversary

American Wood Fibers of Pella, a company that prides itself in being environmentally-friendly, celebrated its 30th anniversary this month.

The company produces wood shavings and industrial wood flour out of recycled material from other manufacturing sources. The wood shavings are typically used for pet bedding, which can range from a guinea pig to large-scale chicken and turkey farms.

Industrial wood flour is made by pulverizing wood shavings and has the same consistency as baking flour. It can be used as a binding agent with resin to produce plastic, like composite decking and toilet seats. The flour can also be used as a filler to make products without using nearly as much plastic.

“It’s cheaper for them, and it’s less plastic in the environment,” said General Manager Chad Ford.

Most of their raw materials are locally sourced throughout the Midwest, and Ford continues to see a growth in demand for their products on a national level.

The company continues to have a unique relationship with Pella Corporation, who locally source many of their raw materials. Ford says Pella Corporation is very stringent about the quality of wood they purchase, which, in turn, enhances the company’s own products.

“This year, our demand exceeded our capability,” said Ford. “An immediate goal I would like to see is that we can meet the demand in the next year or two … the unique thing about us is that there’s no one in the bedding or shavings industry that can meet our quality. We really have that going for us. We just have to work on increasing our capacity to meet those demands.”

The company currently has 23 employees. Jerry Barnett, an employee that helped construct the plant and saw the business in its infancy, also celebrated his 30th anniversary.

Ford has been the general manager since February 2019 and was drawn to the family-owned company for that very reason: their focus on family. Four generations of the Faehner family have continued to operate and grow the company to ten different plants across the country. The plant in Pella is the third oldest.

“While the business continues to grow, they keep their core values intact, and I think that’s really neat,” said Ford. “They’ve never swayed from that, and that’s something that you don’t find a lot in corporate America. We’re not the biggest plant, but I take pride in the fact that we can all interact with each other here, and there’s a nice small-family feel at the plant. We all work really well together.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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