Did you know that pallets move the world, and they are being produced here in Maryland?
Updated: May 23
Meet Don Beazley, Owner of Polo Pallet and Mill Creek Lumber in Cecil County, MD
When you’re picking up something you need from the center aisle of your local store, the
pallet that sits beneath it is an afterthought. However, as Polo Pallet owner Don Beazley knows,
“pallets move the world.”
For 15 years, Polo’s 12,000-square-foot facility in Cecil County’s Elkton has turned logs
into a forestry product that provides the foundation for how goods are moved across this country
and the world, from port to truck to warehouse to store. Whether made of mixed hardwoods or
yellow pine, Polo pallets offer a resting place for all our consumer products and make for easy
transportation of a long line of goods.
The previous owner of the company would buy pre-cut wood, but Beazley pretty
quickly figured out to be successful he had to take better hold of his supply chain and “take a
little bit more command of my lumber.” He gradually worked up to the sawmill he owns now, Mill
Creek Lumber, starting with a small Wood Mizer mill and then a portable circle mill. “In order to
meet the production level, we needed to keep upgrading,” Beazley notes.
“It’s not a whole lot to pallets, it’s just lumber nailed together, but without the lumber,
you’re not going to get anywhere,” he adds. Before long, instead of being dependent on lumber
from other people, they started to generate all their lumber right there on site. “So now we don’t
buy any lumber, we just buy in logs, everything milled there and built there,” says Beazley. Logs are
mostly sourced from Laird Logs, a fellow MFA Faces of Forestry profile, that buys high-quality
logs for veneer and export and sells the sawlogs to places like Mill Creek Lumber.
Polo pallets are designed by Beazley’s daughter, Julianna, using software created by
Virginia Tech professor Mark White. It’s a family affair through and through, with his wife
handling all the scheduling for their work crews. His daughter handles all other administrative
duties for the company. The sawmill also produces shoring lumber and has provided some oddly specific
cuts for customers, like a U.S. naval weapons base in New Jersey seeking new decking for a fleet
of 5,000 train cars. “There can be some unique things you’re cutting for,” Beazley says
The Polo manufacturing site is home to a wood waste recycling yard, the only permitted
facility in Cecil County for the past 12 years. Reynolds Recycling rents a portion of Polo’s land
and uses a grinder to turn wood waste at the site into mulch, which Reynolds sells themselves.
Beazley gets involved come inspection time and is glad to know that their wood waste is “taken
care of in-house.” “As far as doing it legally and doing it right, we’re the only ones in Cecil
County right now that’s doing it right, besides going to the landfill and paying $80 a ton to dump
their wood waste,” Beazley points out.
The pallet manufacturer’s production always changes depending on how busy they are.
“We probably do 2,000 to 2,500 pallets a week on average. We probably use 35,000 to 40,000
board feet a week that we cut and goes right into the pallets,” he says. When it comes to
customers, since Polo is the only pallet manufacturer in the region, they have a core group of 4-5
customers spanning a wide range of industries and don’t have to ship their product very far.
However, the eventual overseas path of some of those pallets requires a heat treatment to
prevent the spread of diseases or invasive forest insect pests. Polo is one of the very rare facilities
equipped to do that. “We have a small kiln that can fit 400 pallets in there at a time,” says
Beazley. This heat treatment of pallets and/or crates is done to comply with the International
Plant Protection Committee's ISPM 15: Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in
International Trade and is inspected by a third party, TPI.
Beazley is in the midst of working on a whole other level of forestry product shipping,
and it’s a venture that could have dramatic ramifications for the global lumber trade. Through a
partnership with the MD Department of Natural Resources MD Forest Service, Upper Shore
Regional Council, and VA Tech, a study of commercial-size heat treatment unit for logs to be
cleared for overseas export to the E.U. has finally gotten off the ground after four years of
endless meetings and analysis. Beazley and partners are now waiting for the E.U. response after
they examine the logs that have been heat-treated and shipped abroad.
“We need wood products,” Beazley explains. Forestry markets and building the industry
are at the heart of it all for Don Beazley, and the push for expansion locally and globally for
wood products — from logs to pallets to wood chips — is something he looks forward to
Pictured above: Don Beazley and his daughter Julianna
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Project Support: RURAL MARYLAND COUNCIL
LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Delmarva Farmer Article- Treatment Process Opens New Market
Upper Shore Regional Council
Timber Products Inspection Bureau
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy
Why Join MFA?
Pictures of representatives from Maryland DNR, USDA APHIS, and VT Tech collaborating on the new steam vacuum technology testing at Polo Pallet.