Oregon logging boom makes headlines

Oregon logging mills made the Wall Street Journal headlines this week.  It appears that the quake in Chile has set-back logging in the world just enough to drive up prices and send mills scrambling to take advantage.  Read a portion of WSJ reporter Leah Nash below…

“…The Boise Cascade Plywood Plant in Medford, Ore., is now running a few overtime shifts and bringing back some employees who were previously laid off.  “We’re up to 410 workers now, from a low of 382,” said Kyle Freres, a vice president of Freres Lumber Co., a plywood producer and the biggest employer in this tiny logging town.  Chile shipped 700 million square feet of plywood abroad last year, about half of which went to North America. Compared with the more than 12 billion square feet of plywood the U.S. and Canada grind out annually, Chile is a relatively small player—providing just 4% of U.S. plywood consumption, industry experts say. But Chile meets almost 30% of the U.S. demand for sanded plywood, a specialty item used in cabinetry and furniture, so its travails created an opportunity for Oregon producers. More than two-dozen jobs were added in Lyons, population 1,125, a nice boost for the local economy after a two-year housing slump.

Mr. Freres, 34 years old, said post-earthquake rumors of a looming sanded-plywood shortage hitting retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s sent prices for his plywood ticking upward, to about $325 a thousand square feet (msf)—a far cry from the $600/msf his wood commanded a few years ago but up from 2008’s $228/msf.  Spokeswomen for both Lowe’s and Home Depot said they weren’t facing a shortfall in plywood.Freres Lumber runs four sawmills within a few miles of the Willamette National Forest, a rich belt of Douglas Fir along Oregon’s Cascade mountain range. Oregonians refer to the timber, prized by builders, as “Doug Fir.” In Lyons, whirring machinery can debark a tree weighing more than a ton in seconds, spinning the woody cylinder into slick sheets of fiber that are transformed into plywood…”

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