Meltdown uproots timber industry

ASTORIA — A spokesman for Oregon forest owners and wood manufacturers says the economic meltdown is going to be harder on the state's timber industry than was the early 1980s recession that caused a major shakeout.

Ray Wilkeson, legislative director of the Oregon Industries Council, also said the situation caused by the nation's weak housing market will get worse before it gets better.

"The worst thing is we don't really know when we're coming out of it," he said. "There are more foreclosures predicted."

The crisis has brought home construction to a virtual standstill and decreased the demand for lumber.

"Until the housing market stabilizes and the oversupply of housing is absorbed, we'll see new construction stay pretty bleak," he said. "There's only limited demand for the product at a very reduced price."

The Oregon Forest Industries Council is an association of more than 50 Oregon forest land owners and forest products manufacturing firms.

In both western and eastern Oregon, timber industry leaders talked this week about the impact of the slowdown in housing.

Jay Browning, the owner of J.M. Browning Logging in Astoria, said he's considering downsizing.

"We're going through a shutdown next week with Weyerhaeuser because of the market," he said, "and some mills are closing down that we will never see start back up again."

In Warrenton, Weyerhaeuser plans to curtail production and send most of the mill's workers home for a week.

The mill has avoided layoffs so far, but it plans to stop production for weeklong periods during the holidays.

Hampton Lumber has laid off 55 workers in its Willamina mill and curtailed production at its Tillamook mill.

"Nobody really wants the lumber right now," said Steve Zika, chief executive officer of Hampton Lumber. "Prices are at historic lows. Most everybody in the industry is taking a week down here or there."

In Elgin, about 100 people showed up at the local community center Wednesday for a meeting convened by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

Tom Insko, manager of Boise Cascade's Inland Region, said his company has had to cut production, curtail shifts and lay off more than 100 workers recently.

"These are the worst market conditions in history, bar none," he said.

He and others complained that fewer logs are available from the "Iron Triangle" of three national forests.

"Imagine shutting down Intel and Nike in Portland and what kind of effect that would have on the Portland economy," Walden said. "That's what's going on here, right now.

Share This Story