From beginnings in a sawmill in the woods of Colbert County, McVantage Products has become a diverse international company that has more than wood in its portfolio.
McVantage grew from C.L. McKinney’s first sawmill after he returned home from the Korean War in 1953. He began expanding operations to meet new business opportunities. Today, his sons, Joe and Chester, oversee a diverse business group that not only specializes in a variety of wood products, but has moved into medical device recycling and regulatory compliance management.
The McKinney brothers could have taken other career paths after graduating from Auburn University, but their father’s business was in their blood. “I had two job offers when I graduated, but I told them I was not interested,” Chester said. “When you grow up in this, at some level it is within you. “I started working here at 9, so I knew how to do it,” Joe said. “When I graduated, only three of my class had job offers.”
And sawmilling is still in their blood. They own a mill in Guyana that produces tropical hardwoods for specialty markets. “There are no roads and no electrical grid outside the cities,” Joe said. “Guyana means land of many rivers, and it’s true. It occurred to me that it’s the Tennessee Valley before the dams were built and rural electrification.”
Asked whether they see themselves as entrepreneurs, Joe and Chester McKinney will question the definition of the term and talk about the differences between small business owners and big business.