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Boardman Area Sawmill to Aid Economy, Environment

Sat, 09/15/2007

September 15, 2007: Boardman, OR

A new sawmill near Boardman will create steady jobs and environmentally friendly wood products, officials said Friday.

“It helps all of us in terms of the economy and helps all of us with the environment,” Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury said at a ground-breaking ceremony for the Upper Columbia Sawmill on the Boardman Freeform.

Tree Farm Resources purchased the 17,000-acre tree farm, which used to be owned by Potlatch Corp., and combined it with its nearby Sand Lake Tree Farm for an approximately 23,000-acre plantation of poplar trees.

Tree Farm Resources then contracted with Collins Companies to do something unusual in the sagging Northwest timber industry: Build a new sawmill.

Officials said the new mill will create about 100 jobs. The mill also will handle wood from the Sand Piper Tree Farm in Paterson.

When it is completed in May, the $35 million sawmill will be one of largest hardwood sawmills in North America, said Eric Schooler, president of Collins.

“We’re going to find the right markets for the wood to go into,” said Jeff Nuss, president of GreenWood Resources. “I’m excited for what the future holds,” he said.

Wood from the fast-growing trees — a poplar hybrid called Pacific Albus — can be used for a wide range of products such as veneers, wood pallets, cabinets, light grids and door cores, said Lee Jimerson, manufacturing accounts manager.

The trees, harvested on a 12- to 15-year rotation, produce timber that is considered an environmentally sustainable product, he said. With the growing interest in green buildings, that label will help sell the wood.

The trees will be harvested on a year-round basis, then replanted in the spring, he said.

“I see this as a sustainable forest that can go on forever,” Schooler told the crowd.

That means the supply — and the jobs — won’t disappear, a prospect that pleases Morrow County Judge Terry Tallman.

“This is the advent of new things for Morrow County,” he said.

GreenWood and Collins also are building a planning mill and drying kiln on the Port of Morrow called the Upper Columbia Mill. The plant, with 20 new jobs initially, will finish the rough-cut timber, then send it to customers.

Mike Nunez, a director for Boardman’s chamber of commerce, said that in an time when many jobs are outsourced, it’s good to see a company staying in a small community.

“It’s nice to see we are getting people to come back to our rural areas,” he said.

By Jeannine Koranda, for the Herald Oregon Bureau

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