FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Northwestern lumber giant Stimson Lumber Co. will lay off more than 60 employees at an Oregon sawmill, citing rising costs caused by state programs and state policies.
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.
"This is really about just trying to be objective about the (economic) landscape in Oregon, versus the options we have to invest elsewhere,” Miller wrote in a letter. “Basically, we’re a commodity business. Margins are lean. The business environment tends to be very competitive."
Miller, who is a big supporter and donor of the GOP, wrote in his letter that taxes, fees, and regulations in Oregon have made the state's wood products industry less competitive. The letter was read aloud by Republicans June 3 on the Senate floor.
"I do not need to be hit with a 2-by-4 in the face to see that Oregon is an urban state and rural Oregon is a place for urbanites to recreate."
Miller called out the Oregon's Clean Fuels Program, an upcoming carbon pricing policy, and a gross recepts tax on businesses as policy examples. He said it all leads to 5 to 7 percent higher production costs for lumber in Oregon.
“It’s the same set of issues that is facing farming throughout the state,” Miller wrote. “These are just realities. It’s not a political statement.”
Stimson employs more than 750 people across Oregon, Idaho, and Monanta - running seven sawmills and owning and managing more than 552,000 acres of forest land in the United States. The Stimson family is among the biggest landowners in the country.
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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