Sightseeing in Northern Michigan: Morbark

Sometimes all it takes is one good idea.

That’s how an inventive man created one of the largest businesses in our area, producing some of the biggest, most impressive machines many have ever seen.

Corey Adkins gives us a look at the roots and growth of Morbark in today’s Sightseeing in Northern Michigan.   

"We’ve had machines north of the Arctic Circle, we’ve had equipment in Army bases in Iraq."

Jaw dropping machines found around the world, and they were all built here in Winn, Michigan, at Morbark.

"Our equipment primarily processes wood fiber. Generally, we’re either grinding or chipping wood," says Morbark President Jim Shoemaker.

A company with humble beginnings, founded by Norville Maury in 1957 after he came home from World War II.

"He had a very limited education, but the guy was a genius. He got into the sawmill business, then he determined that there was a better way to get the bark off cedar posts so he and the blacksmith shop in Winn, Michigan, built a peeler, a debarker, and that was the first product he built. And that turned out to be product of the year in the state of Michigan, and that’s what started Morbark," Jim tells us.

Today, with more than 500 employees and more than a million square feet of factory space, things have certainly changed.

There are new products coming out all the time.

"It’s called a slow speed high torque grinder that’s used particularly for housing blight and that type of waste management, where white metals, refrigerators, stoves, appliances, all sorts of things, plumbing devices, they all go into these slow speed high torque shredders and reduce them," explains Jim.

Morphing this into almost more of a recycling company.

"We’ve come up with a much more economical, much more environmentally sensitive methods to process waste. Most environmentalists who understand the whole process of recycling look at our equipment with a smile on their face," says Jim.

Each of these massive machines made here from scratch.

"It starts on the north side of the building, it’s just flat pieces of steel. Then the process, it works its way south in this 1.1 million square foot facility and eventually we perp out these orange machines," explains Jim.

Each with its own impressive job. It’s fun to watch them in action.

"It’s an absolute ooh and ah moment. It’s robust, it’s loud, it’s very heavy duty equipment. The equipment last literally for decades. It’s very well, built that’s our claim to fame,” says Jim

That, and the people who work to make all this happen every day.

"I’m very proud of this company. I’m proud of the company, but I’m even more proud of the people. We have people here who have been with us for many years. We feel a very strong commitment for our employees and they in turn feel a very strong commitment to the company, as well. They are the company."

Earlier this month, Stellex Capital Management out of New York bought Morbark.

The company says they are not leaving the area, and expect this to allow the company to expand.

They’re hoping more jobs will be added within the next two to three years.  

Categories: Northern Michigan In Focus