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Forest products: Modern, sustainable and key for Clatsop County

By Luke Whittaker

The Daily Astorian

Published on February 15, 2017 12:03PM

Hampton Lumber Mill Manager Lois Perdue

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Hampton Lumber Mill Manager Lois Perdue

How did you get started in the lumber industry?


“I grew up in a small town in NE Washington where the timber industry provided the community with the best-paying jobs. I applied right out of high school, began working and learning our business.”


What is the most difficult part of your job?


“Finding the right people to join our team, and once we find them, getting them trained up. The timber industry isn’t all manual labor positions as a lot of people believe. We have skilled positions we are trying to fill every day. Most of the time we are filling these positions within because we are unable to find people on the outside. This can be challenging if the need is immediate. However, training members of our own team also creates growth opportunities for the people working for us. I am an example of this type of opportunity.”


What part gives you the greatest satisfaction?


“Seeing the mill operate well and our teams going home safely. Watching individual members of our team grow and succeed.”


Are there any misconceptions you regularly encounter regarding the lumber industry?


“A common misconception is that the lumber industry is no longer an important part of the modern, Oregon economy. That’s not true at all. We take locally grown, renewable materials and turn them in the most environmentally-friendly building materials available. One hundred percent of the log is used when manufactured at our mill — what isn’t turned into lumber is used for biofuel, pulp and paper, wood chips, etc. This industry is a great fit for Oregon and an important part of our local economy and broader conservation goals. We operate sustainably and employ thousands.”

“Another misconception is sawmills are archaic. We incorporate a lot of new technology to get the most out of our resources. Sawmills aren’t as hands on as they were decades ago, but it still takes a lot of skilled people to keep our machines and computers running smoothly.”


Has your career had an impact on your outlook in regard to the environment and conservation? If so, how?


“Environmental litigation has all but shut down our federal forests to timber harvest. It has been hard to watch those same forests wither away from bug infestation or burn up in massive wildfires. We need good, science-based management of our forests. At Hampton, our timberlands are managed sustainably for future generations. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about modern forest management and the importance of local wood manufacturing. Forests are special places and people should feel strongly about them. Natural resource management is complex and too important to too many people to be influenced by oversimplified arguments that insist modern forest management and environmental conservation are incompatible. I think both conservation and economic goals could be better advanced if we took the time to come together as a community to really listen and learn from the different stakeholders involved.”


Has the mill changed or evolved since you’ve been involved?


“When the mill was bought five years ago, Hampton invested in excess of $20 million to bring in some new equipment and technology in the sawmill to get the most value out of each log. A newer boiler with an enhanced pollution control system was also added. Since I have been here, we have done a lot of deferred maintenance and added a brand new dry kiln to increase the quality of the lumber we produce.”


What are the latest upgrades at the Warrenton mill? How will it have an impact?


“Most of the expenditures in the last six months have been to increase the reliability of the back end of the sawmill. This will increase productivity on both shifts. This spring we are adding a new auto grading machine to the planer which will improve the grade recovery of our lumber.”


Do you feel the industry is changing? If so, how?


“With the shortage of timber due to increasing restrictions on forestry and log exports to China, sawmills have to keep increasing technology to get more value out of every log. Many sawmills have closed in the last 20 years, so unless you are constantly improving your processes, investing in technology or employing the best people you will not be in the business going forward. I enjoy the challenge of the industry and the people I am fortunate enough to work with.”


Anything you would like to add?


“We need the people in the urban areas to journey out to the rural areas and the forests and find out what is really going on. People living in the rural areas are environmentalists and have no interest in making all the forests go away.”



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