BTB 47: M.T. SYKES LOGGING

BTB spoke with Marvin Thomas Sykes, owner of M.T. Sykes Logging and 27-year-old son Colton Sykes to learn more about their all-Tigercat harvesting operations.

SALEM, Alabama – Passion for working in the woods is contagious and continues to be passed down from generation to generation in the Sykes family. M.T. Sykes Logging started with Marvin’s father, Bill Sykes in 1974. Marvin took over the business in 1999 when his father decided to retire. Today the company runs a thinning crew and a clear fell crew and both are all Tigercat.

Four generations of Sykes loggers. (L-R) Bill, Cooper, Cam, Marvin and Colton.

Four generations of Sykes loggers. (L-R) Bill, Cooper, Cam, Marvin and Colton.

Four generations

Running equipment starts young in the Sykes family. “I started running equipment when I was twelve years- old,” says Marvin. “I would get on the skidder when they were eating lunch and pull a drag. It would take me about the whole lunch break to get one drag to the landing,” he laughs.

Just like Marvin, his son Colton grew up watching logging equipment run throughout his childhood. Colton worked with his father every chance he could: over Christmas break, on weekends and all through the summer. He started full-time after high school at age seventeen.

 

We want to work in the woods with Daddy and Big Daddy!

– Marvin’s grandkids (seven-year-old Cam and six-year-old Cooper)

 

Marvin’s grandchildren, seven-year-old Cam and six-year-old Cooper, can’t wait to start operating. “We want to work in the woods with Daddy and Big Daddy,” they both say. At Christmas, the boys love unwrapping a new Tigercat die-cast model. They hope to get the newest 724G feller buncher this year.

Marvin’s nephew, Edd Willingham runs the thinning crew and the clear fell crew is run by Colton. Marvin’s wife, Christie, handles the books and Marvin himself fills in wherever he is needed. One day Marvin will be running the bulldozer building roads. The next day he might hop on the loader or drive a truck. M.T. Sykes owns seven trucks in total. Marvin owns six and Colton now owns one, purchasing his first log truck from his father two years ago. In addition, the company contracts three trucks from Marvin’s brother Wayne, who owns a trucking business.

Sykes Logging: 234 Loader

Sykes Logging: 234 Loader

Sykes Logging: 620E Skidder

Sykes Logging: 620E Skidder

The iron

The thinning crew consists of a 724E drive-to-tree feller buncher, a month-old 620E skidder and a 234 loader. The larger clear fell crew has a 620E skidder, an older 620D skidder, a 724G feller buncher, a 234 loader and a 250 loader.

Marvin was introduced to Tigercat in 2001 when the company purchased two Tigercat 240 loaders. Next came a Tigercat feller buncher in 2002. And in 2011, the company finally purchased its first Tigercat skidder. “To be honest it took me a while to get into the Tigercat skidders because of the price. But as competitor models increased in price, I recognized the true value in the Tigercat skidders. Once I tried one I liked it and they hold up a lot better,” explains Marvin.

M.T. Sykes had its 724G arrive on-site in February 2017. Since then the company added a new 620E skidder to the line-up.

M.T. Sykes had its 724G arrive on-site in February 2017. Since then the company added a new 620E skidder to the line-up.

Marvin’s son Colton runs the newest 724G feller buncher. “I have run them all but we like Tigercat the best,” he says. He loves having all the controls on the joystick versus having the arm control on the foot pedal like the 724E. “It is still just as strong and powerful as the older model but the upgrades to the cab are really nice. The seat is so comfortable,” Colton adds.

All Tigercat equipment has been purchased through long-time Tigercat dealer Forestry 21. Marvin and Forestry 21 owner Ricky McConnell go back over twenty years. “I knew Ricky when he was a logger with his brother before he started selling equipment.

I get good service from Forestry 21,” says Marvin. “Ricky is always there to help when we need him.”

The thinning crew with Forestry 21 staff and Tigercat district manager Johnny Boyd. (L-R): Ricky McConnell, Edd Willingham, Zane Plair, Russell McCullers, Bubba Beckwith, Johnny Boyd, Marvin Sykes and Forestry 21 sales specialist Lewis Greer.

The thinning crew with Forestry 21 staff and Tigercat district manager Johnny Boyd. (L-R): Ricky McConnell, Edd Willingham,
Zane Plair, Russell McCullers, Bubba Beckwith, Johnny Boyd, Marvin Sykes and Forestry 21 sales specialist Lewis Greer.

Forestry 21 took Colton to visit the Tigercat factory two years ago in 2015. “I was already a 100% Tigercat fan but after visiting the factory I was at 200%. Everyone was so nice and helpful. Tigercat runs its business like we run ours, valuing its employees and their hard work. It really meant a lot when the owner took us around his steel factory where it begins, which was very cool to see. Everything seemed to work like a well-oiled machine,” Colton expressed.

Hard work

Marvin believes his business has stayed steady and successful over the years from working hard and finding hardworking employees. “I try to take good care of my employees and help them out,” he says. The company employs fourteen people, including truck drivers. Employees are supplied with health insurance, good vacation pay and uniforms.

 

“Tigercat runs its business like we run ours, valuing its employees and their hard work.”

– Colton Sykes

 

Marvin makes sure his operators are versatile and can operate all equipment on the job site. This allows them to rotate over the lunch break to keep the flow of the operations moving. “This way nothing ever comes to a complete stop during the day,” Colton explains.

The clear fell crew (L-R): Justin Adams, Colton Sykes, Marvin Sykes, DJ Thompson and Zack Howze.

The clear fell crew (L-R): Justin Adams, Colton Sykes, Marvin Sykes, DJ Thompson and
Zack Howze.

“My father always taught us to work hard and don’t quit. I think our success boils down to hard work and making hay when the sun shines. Whenever you have the opportunity to get a bunch of logs out, you got to seize it and stay until dark if you need to.” The crew won’t leave for the day until a load of logs is ready to go for the next morning.

The company harvests primarily softwood and some mixed tracts with softwood and hardwood. The thinning crew hauls 50-60 loads per week and the clear fell crew hauls an average of 80 loads per week but has reached up to 160 loads. “We have been off and on quota but it seems like right now things are steady,” says Marvin.

Marvin, 49, is content with the size of his operations with no plans to add a third crew. His son Colton, who will take over when he is ready to retire, is currently taking more time in the office to learn all angles of the business. Colton respects his father and the knowledge he has gained over the years. “He is the boss and owner but he’s not your typical boss. He works hard and will get in there and help out with everything,” Colton states. Colton plans to continue to encourage the strong interest his children already have in the forestry world. Marvin and Colton both recognize that passion starts young and if guided correctly, will last a lifetime with generations to follow.

Sykes Logging: 250D Loader

Sykes Logging: 250D Loader

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