Powerful Chinese demand boosts timber outlook


Mill owners are predicting a rebound in the wood products industry in 2011, thanks to a huge new customer.

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Mill owners are predicting a rebound in the wood products industry in 2011, thanks to a huge new customer.

After a string of slow years due to the collapse of the domestic housing market, timber companies are selling their products to Chinese buyers and hiring to keep up with demand.

That’s a welcome development for Lane County’s largest manufacturing segment, which has survived what some in the timber industry call a depression, not a recession. Rick Re, general manager of Seneca Sawmill in Eugene, expects volume at his sawmills to increase this year, meaning bigger paychecks for workers than last year.

Seneca, with 265 employees, responded to the industry downturn by cutting workers’ hours, instead of people, Re said. “So as demand increases we will just keep adding hours,” he said.

“We increased our hours about 23 percent in 2010 over 2009, Re said, “and we expect that we’ll see a continued increase. I don’t think we’ll get back to full production in 2011, but we’ll continue to add hours for the year. Our guys are going to make more money in 2011 than they did in 2010.”

Re said his mills saw increased demand for lumber products from China in the second half of last year and, based on industry reports, that demand should continue at least through this year.

Read more at the Eugene Register-Guard.




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