2017-09-17 / Insight

Timber Systems serves clients nationwide

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


An employee at Timber Systems guides a finished and packaged beam on to a trailer for shipment to a job site. The company makes wood structures out of materials you won’t find at Home Depot or Menards. 
Photos by Phil Foley An employee at Timber Systems guides a finished and packaged beam on to a trailer for shipment to a job site. The company makes wood structures out of materials you won’t find at Home Depot or Menards. Photos by Phil Foley Editor’s note: Today The County Press continues our “Behind the Walls” series that spotlights businesses in our community you may know little about as you pass them in your commute.

LAPEER — If you’ve been to the Eastpointe City Hall or the rowing club at Princeton, you’ve seen Timber Systems work. But even if you’ve driven every street in the city, it’s possible you’ve never noticed the company even though it’s located on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

Part of that is the company is somewhat low key. And part of it is company owner Roger Harris never got around to changing the sign for Lapeer Lumber and Truss.


Lapeer’s Roger Harris made the switch from auto parts to heavy structural timber 18 years ago and now has one of the most successful companies in the city that hardly anyone knows is here. Lapeer’s Roger Harris made the switch from auto parts to heavy structural timber 18 years ago and now has one of the most successful companies in the city that hardly anyone knows is here. Harris, who owned an auto parts manufacturing company the time, bought Timber Systems in 1999. The then Mason-based company was already 23 years told when he acquired it. “I was looking for a new business,” he said, “and this felt like a good business.”

There are maybe a dozen heavy structural lumber businesses in the county, Harris said, noting his is the only one in southeast Michigan. He said by comparison, there are about two dozen structural steel companies in the same area. Harris said that while the steel companies each reach out about 100 miles from their facilities, his clients are nationwide.


Roger Harris points to just a few of the projects Timber Systems has completed in recent years. The company’s massive wood beams can be found in a couple of dining halls at the University of Michigan, Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and in projects in every state east of the Rockies. Roger Harris points to just a few of the projects Timber Systems has completed in recent years. The company’s massive wood beams can be found in a couple of dining halls at the University of Michigan, Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo and in projects in every state east of the Rockies. A year and a half later he moved the company to Lapeer where he and his family lived. He said he located the company at Lapeer Lumber and Truss, which he acquired about the same time, thinking he’d get a lot of his materials by rail.

Turns out, most of his suppliers don’t have rail access, so nearly all of his materials and products arrive and leave by truck. Solid pine comes up from mills in the South; cedar and Douglas fir is shipped from the Northwest; and he gets his engineers wood from Minnesota and Canada.

Given that the company’s projects are nationwide, shipping costs are just about a wash.

From estimators and engineers to woodworkers and installers, the company currently employees 22 people. “We have some of the best cad designers in the industry,” he said, adding, “We have high talent woodworkers and a good erection staff.”

Harris said there’s currently a Timber System structure in every state east of the Rockies. The company recently completed the Headlands Observatory west of Mackinaw City and the Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo was a Timber Systems project. There’s a Timber System crew putting up a wellness center about two hours outside New York City.

He said the company currently completes about 60 to 70 projects a year and has been growing about 10 percent a year. Harris sees a lot of opportunity for expansion in what’s now about a $100-million industry.

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