When Cheri Folk, then a loan officer with the Bank of Astoria, sat down with 18-year-old Shawn Teevin in 1978, she saw a determined young man with a well thought-out business plan.
Teevin asked her for $28,000 to jump start his logging business.
“I just had a sense that he had a clear vision of where he wanted to be 10, 20 years from there,” said Folk, who gave the teenager with no credit history a loan to buy his first log truck. Teevin combined that with his brother Jeff’s D-6 Caterpillar to start Teevin Bros.
Tree-felling accidents cut down his brother Jeff in 1983, as one had his father Bob in 1966. But Teevin, now 53, kept at it, eventually transcending logging itself.
During the last 35 years, the self-starting gyppo logger from Knappa has left the woods and built one of the largest logistics companies for natural resources in the Pacific Northwest. Teevin Bros. takes in timber, lumber and other cargo by road, rail and barge from throughout the state and exports it by freighter and barge from Rainier to Asia, Hawaii and California.
The company has leased log yards in Eugene and Crabtree in the Willamette Valley. It’s close to opening a handling facility at the Port of Umatilla, along with a log export terminal in Newport.
Anticipating the need for rock in the growing Portland metro area and Northwest Oregon, Teevin has bought into two quarries in Clatsop County. He also operates another in Columbia County.
Throughout his time in business, Teevin’s always had one eye on business opportunities unseen by many and another on philanthropy in his home turf and everywhere he does business.
Driving east down U.S. Highway 30, the black asphalt patch of the 80-acre Teevin Terminal spreads out along the Columbia River in the shadow of the Lewis and Clark Bridge, staring down the Port of Longview. A steady trickle of semi trucks heads in and out of the yard; log stackers snatch bundles of timber off the trailers and awaiting trains; and rows of logs line up perpendicular to the shore.
In the late 1990s, the crown jewel of Teevin’s empire, Teevin Terminal, was a run-down brownfield site of a former Crown Zellerbach sawmill, which an 18-year-old Teevin once ran log trucks to.
Teevin Bros. moved into the facility in 1999, leased to purchase starting in 2001 and eventually blacktopped and otherwise “Teevinized” it. (That is a colloquial term describing the company’s attention to neatness.) In 2004, while loading freighters for export, Teevin approached Paul Sause, owner of Sause Bros. about his aspirations to build a new dock in Rainier.
“A lot of people thought I was crazy building this facility, but Sause told me ‘If we built it, they would come,’” Teevin added about an eventual partnership with Sause Bros., which ships cargo out of his Rainier yard to Hawaii and California. “They would rather go to a private dock.
“We were really excited to get 20 log truck loads a day,” said Teevin about starting in the Rainier yard. “Now we have over 100 people working down there.”
His Rainier facility, he said, is now the largest private marine terminal on the West Coast. The hub helped shipping supplant logging as Teevin Bros.’ main business.
The Rainier facility can hold up to 25 million board feet of forest products, and it handles up to five ships per month. Three hundred truck-loads of logs come in and leave daily by truck and rail. Barges continually head to Hawaii and California. A quarter of the timber coming out of the Port of Longview, is handled by Teevin Bros., said Teevin’s General Manager Eric Oien, who added that half the area’s log traffic and a majority of barge traffic goes through Teevin.
“It’s about 60 percent log yard, 40 percent dock,” said Oien about the physical division of Teevin Terminal and the company’s revenues. The yard includes two rollout areas for trucks bringing in timber – 100 loads a day on the west side of the terminal and 50 on the east. Sixty percent of the lumber out of Teevin Terminal heads to Japan, and 40 percent to China.
Teevin Terminal is fronted to the south by U.S. Highway 30 and nearly a half mile of rail spurs that connect to Portland & Western Railroad.
“We’re the largest shipper on the Portland & Western line between Eugene and Astoria,” said Teevin, who started leasing a log-sorting yard in Eugene in 2006 and operates another at Crabtree for Albany & Eastern Railroad. “We do about 120 to 150 log truckloads a day (for Weyerhaeuser) on rail. They’re bound for Japan.”
Teevin said the connection to short-line rail systems is crucial for the affordable transport of goods for Teevin Bros. and companies like Weyerhaeuser.
“(We get) a little over 12,000 rail cars in here” yearly, said Paul Langner – head of Teevin’s waterfront facilities and a former U.S. Coast Guardsman – about the rail cars bringing in lumber and timber to Rainier. “That takes 40- to 41,000 trucks off the highway system. ODOT should give Shawn a badge and a place of honor, maybe a plaque or something.”
“Anything you can do to get the trucks off the road is a good thing,” said Oien about the costs and hassles of trucking.
Teevin Bros. still runs about 65 trucks carrying in timber and taking it to Longview for export from Weyerhaeuser. A proposed reloading facility Teevin’s trying to start in?Umatilla might further its efforts to transport logs from eastern Oregon to Rainier by barge.
Looking to expand
Dale Sause, president of Sause Bros., said his company consolidated its cargo operations in Rainier by 2009 because of what are called “multimodal” connections. It ships anything from paper to light rail components out of Rainier to Hawaii, along with lumber heading to California. Sause represents at least 25 percent of Teevin’s business, said Oien, and the logistics side of the company is only growing in the future.
This fall, Bergerson Construction starts work on a new $3.75 million dock space funded largely by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Connect Oregon IV infrastructure program. Teevin is also closing in on a deal to open a log export terminal in Newport to shorten trips from its yards in Crabtree and Eugene.
“Always use common sense, whether in your personal life or your professional life,” said Teevin when asked about his business strategy. “Common sense always prevails.”
He added that the company is looking into Washington and northern California, always to expand and strengthen its logistics chain.
Teevin’s son Jeff, 24, is a night shift foreman in Rainier, and his stepson Chance Henriksbo, 22, works on the barge side of the business. Teevin said the two are working toward higher management positions in the company.
While his larger business continues, Teevin continues his various labors of love. Born in Seaside, he moved to Knappa after his mother Janet married Bud Heilmann, a logger whom Teevin and his brother worked for into high school.
He owns and operates?The Logger, a Knappa staple, and recently renovated the restaurant.
A Class of 1978 graduate, Teevin helped start the Knappa Schools Foundation, which has assets of more than $1 million and runs a successful annual auction.
Last year, he became the youngest inductee into the Knappa Hall of Fame.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Folk about giving the loan to Teevin, who volunteers on her former bank’s governing board. “He didn’t have a credit history, but he had a good business plan.
“It was one of my best decisions.”