Reader Profile: Joe Choate

June 13, 2013

Not all people long for a corner office in a high-rise building. Warren (Joe) Choate and his father, Warren Sr., find their happiness in the great expanse. In 1997, Joe Choate started Choate Forest Pros in Williamsport, PA, as a diverse land clearing, excavating, logging, and erosion control company. His father, Warren, is co-owner. Because of some smart business moves, the Choates now operate 30 pieces of iron in their business today compared with four in early 2011. They supervise 10 full-time and four part-time employees, all with lifetime logging and excavating backgrounds with more than 180 years of combined experience among them. The Choates also supervise an extensive fleet of excavators and dozers, as well as four heavy trucks to keep products moving.

The Path That Led to Working in the Industry
Joe Choate wanted to work in the logging industry. “My grandfather once told me, “˜If you do something you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life,'” he notes. “I’ve been that fortunate.”

What Father and Son Like About Their Job
Joe Choate says he and his father like working with wood and dirt. They like the people they’ve met through the business and the nature of the work, to say nothing of “getting to play with big toys and be outside.” Joe Choate says he also likes the challenge of being able to hone his skills.

What They Do on a Day-to-Day Basis
From the time of the company’s founding, the Choates spent 14 years building a solid rapport in the forest products industry within a three-county area. In 2011, father and son took note of an opportunity to broaden the scope of work they performed by shifting their focus towards the natural-gas industry. “We were contacted to clear a 10-acre project in Susquehanna County. And that was the beginning of it all,” says Joe Choate. Subsequently, Choate Forest Pros has developed solid relationships with many of the area’s natural-gas drilling companies and larger construction companies to perform the clearing and grubbing needs for well pads, access roads, water impoundments, and pipelines, as well as some of the excavating jobs. In addition to business decisions leading to increased production and efficiency, Choate Forest Pros has recently opened up a mulch yard on the northern edge of Williamsport and the company is grinding its own material for wholesale and retail customers in the landscape industry. Their newest move was the purchase of a Finn mulch blower on a single-grouser tracked undercarriage for installing silt sock onsite and in any terrain. The 22-yard capacity remote-controlled machine is one of two in the country.

The Biggest Challenge From the beginning, the Choates always struggled with getting rid of treetops and stump waste on the clearing jobs fast enough. At first, they used a mid-sized, 400-horsepower chipper that worked well but was high maintenance. Plus, the chip markets were-and still are-volatile in their area. The only choice for the stumps that couldn’t be left onsite was to pay to dump them at a local landfill. The two had no problem putting wood on the ground and processing the grade logs out to meet production needs; it was the waste recycling holding them up. The men inquired about grinders at a forestry exposition in West Virginia, where they met representatives from Bandit Industries and ended up purchasing a Bandit Beast 3680T horizontal grinder on a tracked undercarriage. For the “boys who like the big toys,” the Beast has been like nirvana. “The beast has completely changed our operation,” says Joe Choate. “It has allowed us to really open up and expand our scope of work. It’s a real workhorse. We use it to grind all of our stumps into mulch as well as our top wood when it’s not convenient to chip.”