LYONS, Ore. - Rob Freres, president of Oregon-based Freres Lumber, has personally pledged $1 million to overturn a new business tax in Oregon. Freres Lumber is the company behind Massive Plywood Panels, densely-layered Douglas veneer sheets for commercial building construction. News of the panels made one of 2017's most popular Woodworking Network articles.
The tax, which passed in Oregon state legislature last month, is designed to provide an additional $1 billion for Oregon public schools every year. The tax is on businesses - imposing a 0.57 percent levy on sales by companies with more than $1 million a year in revenue.
The legislation was among Governor Kate Brown's and the Democrats' top priorities last month, reported the Oregonian.
Freres Lumber President Rob Freres
Freres is part of an association of Oregon industrial businesses that seeks to overturn the tax hike. If repeal supporters gather 75,000 signatures within 90 days after the ongoing legislative session, the tax will be voted on by Oregon citizens directly. The $1 million investment is expected to go a long way in gathering the needed signatures.
This $1 million donation is the largest personally donated by Freres, who typically gives to Republican campaign efforts, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Freres and Freres Lumber have donated close to $1.5 million to Republican candidates and campaigns since 2007.
The news comes soon after Northwestern lumber giant Stimson laid off 60 and shut down an Oregon sawmill, citing rising costs of state programs.
Stimson CEO Andrew Miller said the shutdown was forced "due to the rising cost of doing business in Oregon" and has elected to move production to Idaho and Montana instead. The closing mill, located just west of Portland, primarily makes dimensional lumber for retailers like Home Depot, the company's largest customer.
Other Oregon wood product companies have taken hits as of late. Georgia-Pacific shut down its sawmill in Coos Bay, Oregon, laying off 111 workers in April. Also, a lack of federal timber forced Swanson Group to shut down an Oregon sawmill in April. Swanson said nearby forests - owned by the U.S. Forest Service - have been neglected and as a result, plagued with wildfires. This story was big on social media.
Despite decling over previous decades, wood product manufacturing remains one of the biggest industries in Oregon when it comes to jobs and revenue. The entire industry represents $1.1 billion in total payroll for the state.
Early last year, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said that Oregon's forest sector contributes more than $12 billion annually to the state's economy and employs more than 60,000 Oregonians. Over 8,300 workers manufacture plywood and engineered wood products in Oregon, the state’s third biggest industry.
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