About Us

The Highland Approach

Since Highland’s inception, we have taken a best-in-class approach to everything we do. From the team we have formed to those proven and outstanding companies with which we have aligned our services, Highland has positioned itself to become an exceptional global supplier of sustainable wood pellets. We are a diverse group of professionals who share a commitment to excellence and success. At the core of our business is also an unwavering commitment to the places in which we are privileged to conduct business. Wood pellets offer an exciting opportunity to deliver sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel to the people and places who need and care about where their energy comes from.

Our Culture

We know our success is only defined by how well we treat the people we employ and the environments we touch. Highland has a deep set of core values that drives the way in which it conducts it daily business throughout all levels of the company. To all our stakeholders, customers and employees, we promise to act with respect, integrity, honesty and transparency. We strive to be good custodians of the lands where we source our fiber and provide a positive force of change in the places where we live and work, for generations to come.

Safety

Highland has an active and on-going program to build a culture of safety across the business. Every employee is accountable for the safety of the people around them. Every employee is empowered to enforce that all visitors follow the safety rules of the workplace, including that all correct personal protective equipment is worn, hazards are observed and that all warning signs are always adhered to. All employees have the right to challenge any process that they deem to be unsafe. We strive to educate and nurture our employees to take pride and accountability in safety. Our focus on safety is maintained by avoiding complacency and reinforcing the importance of safe working practices through daily communication and training. Safety without compromise is our priority in all our operations.

Management Team

Thomas Reilley

Chairman & Co-Founder

Tom has more than 20 years of experience as an investor and entrepreneur. He started his career with Bear, Stearns and as a Senior Managing Director was transferred to London in 2002 to establish the wealth management division and serve as its executive director and as a member of the International Executive Committee. He left in 2007 to found Kalan Capital, an investment vehicle and private equity fund that developed the geothermal company Orka Energy into a key holding. He exited his stake in 2012 and returned to the U.S. where he continues to be an active investor. Tom holds a B.A. in International Relations and Economics (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA).

Rob McKenzie

Managing Director & Co-Founder

Having worked in the UK Wholesale Power Market for 16 years, Rob has considerable experience in both Renewable Energy and Energy Trading, with a proven track record in setting up new trading desks and developing new business opportunities. Rob has 10 years trading experience (Power, Gas and Carbon) including 6 years as a UK Power and Gas Trading Manager. Rob has a detailed understanding of all areas of the Biomass market, including origination, transportation, Power generation and a full understanding of market regulations. Rob started his career as an assistant Economist in the Energy Policy Analysis team of the Department of Trade & Industry before moving to Midlands Electricity as a commercial analyst. He then joined Cinergy Global Trading in 1999 to set up their Power supply business, Power Trading desk and assist with development of their Renewable Trading desk. In 2004 Rob set up the UK Power and Gas Trading desk in London for Cargill PLC and continued to provide detailed commercial advice and analysis on the UK Renewable Market. During 2011 Rob worked on building a European Renewable Energy Business for Cargill PLC before leaving to join Highland in 2012.

Jeff Vanderpool

Chief Executive Officer

Jeff is a native of Pine Bluff and is deeply embedded in the community, he brings 35 years of high-volume manufacturing experience to the Highland team. Working since 1990 for Luxembourg based Arcelor Mittal Steel and then Korean based Kiswire producing steel wire products for the tire industry has given Jeff more than 29 years of experience working in a global marketplace. Throughout his career Jeff has worked in all segments of large-scale manufacturing operations, starting from front line supervision then moving into Quality Management finally transitioning into an Executive Management position from 2012 forward. He has participated in and managed numerous facility start-ups and optimization programs in Central and Eastern Europe, along with facilities in North America. Jeff’s experience and commitment to Operational Excellence will further strengthen Highland’s mission to be the leader going forward in the Biomass industry.

Stephen Rice

Director of Engineering

Stephen Rice joined Highland Pellets as Director of Engineering in 2020. Stephen previously worked as President of Global Process Group, holds a BS and MS in Wood Technology from the University of Massachusetts and has 40 years of engineering and management in various sectors of the Forest Products Industry. Experience includes COO of M-E-C Company, manufacturer of industrial rotary dryers, biomass combustion systems and extensive experience producing biocoal, biochar and carbon from biomass and cellulose based materials.

Ellen Kincaid

Sustainability Manager

Ellen is a dedicated environmental professional with deep expertise in sustainability standards developed through diverse work improving and implementing forest sustainability certifications. Ellen was a leader of the Sustainable Biomass Program certification efforts at SCS Global Services, tracking and monitoring forest management standards such as PEFC and FSC. She then opened her own auditing company, performing SBP, FSC, and PEFC audits across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Ellen graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey with a Master’s degree in International Environmental Policy and has a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from Washington State University.

Christian James

Plant Manager

Christian, a native of Benton, AR, brings 25 years of Operations and Mechanical Excellence to Highland Pellets. He comes to Highland after a 25 years career with Saint-Gobain Proppants, where he served in multiple capacities leading the high-volume facilities. Christian started his career in the plant as a Mechanical Specialist Lead and transitioned to a Production/Maintenance Supervisor. Christian’s role within the company then evolved into a global support role for the construction, startup, and ultimately Operations Management of the Guanghan, China and Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela Proppants facilitates. In 2012, he was appointed to the Plant Manager position of the newly constructed $136M Little Rock, AR facility. Christian’s Mechanical and Operations experience will be a great addition to Highland’s Management team and will aide in future expansions.

Brian Reed

Procurement Manager

Brian Reed is the Procurement Manager for Highland Pellets, with over 30 years of fiber procurement experience across North America in traditional forest products and renewable energy. Brian worked at Georgia Pacific for 22 years in various Procurement Manager positions and multiple locations where he was responsible for the annual purchase of 2 million tons of saw timber and pulpwood, focusing on quality and cost management.

Brian worked as the Biomass Resource Manager for Zilkha Biomass between 2008 and 2017, where he was responsible for coordinating wood chip supplies into Crockett, TX wood pellet facility while performing various due diligence roles in locating proposed pellet facilities. Provided procurement oversight activities at the Selma AL facility, including generation of new sources of lower cost feedstock.

Brian is a tree farmer with property in MS & AL, an Arkansas Forestry Association member and is involved in the Forest Practices committee and State Implementation Committee for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Brian holds a bachelor degree in Forestry from Mississippi State University.