The Neiman family is an example of who makes America great. The privately owned sawmill headquartered in Hulett, WY has 480 employees, is a major supplier to Anderson Windows and several big box retailers including Home Depot. When the company was founded four generations ago, approximately 60 percent of the log was viable in the manufacturing process. Today's use of sophisticated lasers and scanners-that measure up to 1,000th of an inch-allows the mill to purpose 99.9 percent of the log for various products.
The Neiman story is a lesson in the fruits of hard work with a little luck along the way. "My great granddad manufactured grain doors for railroads during the Great Depression," recalled Jim Neiman Jr. "The natural progression of business required us to establish a sawmill. Business flourished and, in the 1950's my dad had operations up and down the West Coast. One of our more profitable products was manufacturing 'mine squares' as support structures for the Hearst family silver mines.
"Our family has has some luck along the way." continued Neiman. "During the brutal recession earlier this decade instead of laying off staff, we built inventory. We didn't expect the recession to be as deep or long lasting and our warehouse was packed with $22 million of unsold product. Then, suddenly, when a massive earthquake hit Chile hundreds of sawmills in South America were off line. We sold out our $22 million in inventory, without offering much of a discount within 48 hours."
As the company continued growing, Jim was scouting the nation for mill equipment, he noticed commonalities in successful sawmill operations. Towns that had diversified job prospects and a laundry list of everyday services were better able to manage the spotted owl crisis. "Our town of Hulett only has a couple of hundred full-time residences," said Neiman. "I felt if we could create a reason to live here, both my company's employee recruitment and retention would be stronger."
On a bluff overlooking Devils Tower, Jim carved out three holes from the rugged wilderness. "It was slow going at first. When we saw the potential, several of the best shapers in the golf design business were hired to create a course we would be proud of," said Neiman.
"Our goal was three fold. First, provide employees of the mill a recreational outlet. Second, create an environment that would attract professionals, and new entrepreneurs to Hulett. And finally, establish a golf experience so special that you would pick The Golf Club at Devils Tower as your summer destination. I think we succeeded on all accounts and, to boot we carry no debt on the club," said Neiman. "To ease the travel burden to the North Western Black Hills of Wyoming, we built a 5,500-foot-long runway just up the street from the clubhouse. We greet you in a concierge cart for you short ride to the first tee."
The golf course has all of today's popular design trends. Bunkers are rough around the edges and fairways are framed by native grasses. The front nine plays through an open prairie and the back nine has more trees and elevation changes. "The trio of holes-11, 12, and 13-play to the canyon rim with clear views of Devils Tower in the distance," said Todd Coover, General Manager. "If you have a bet against your partner, I suggest having a two-shot lead heading into No. 17. You hit out of a tree lined shoot to a narrow fairway. The green is elevated with little bailout room. You really need to stripe it twice. The hole has been dubbed 'where good rounds go to die.
Jim Neiman Sr. purchased a historic 1901 cherry wood back-bar from the Cowboy Bar in Belle Fourche, SD. Restoration has been completed and its a beauty, it will be the centerpiece of the new clubhouse scheduled to open late summer.
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