Lumber Community Voices: Steve Swanson

What does the lumber industry and your mill mean to your community?

The lumber industry means something simple to us: opportunity. The opportunity to take care of our employees, forests and shareholders. The opportunity to pass down a strong and healthy lumber mill and industry to future generations. The opportunity to live our values while competing in one of the most prolific tree-growing regions in the world.

Since my father and uncle first opened Swanson Group’s doors more than 65 years ago, we have been supporting small communities and families all over Oregon. We believe that stronger communities make for better workers, and vice versa, so nothing beats getting to support our community with a healthy business.

Why is fair trade important for the lumber industry?

Oregon has a thriving lumber and timber industry, but its opportunity for growth was being stifled by the subsidies Canada’s government provides to its lumber industry. Canada’s lumber industry is very different from ours in the United States. It heavily subsidizes its lumber industry with below market stumpage fees that just aren’t possible here since we are a market-driven industry largely run by private companies. Thanks to fair trade, that advantage is being offset with duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports – giving U.S. lumber producers the opportunity to grow and compete.

Now, we have more confidence, and are able to grow our business and produce more lumber.

How has your mill grown since the duties were enforced?

Our vision is to be a world-class forest products company in control of our destiny, and to be world-class we need the opportunity to compete on the level playing field made possible by the duties.

Since leveling the playing field, the entire industry has shown that it can step to the challenge and increase production. At Swanson Group, for example a new primary breakdown in Roseburg helped us increase production by more than 50 percent and a new boiler and kilns in Glendale means we are able to produce KD lumber for an additional customer base.

Is there anything about the industry that you think might surprise people?

We’re always looking to innovate! For example, we’ve always been forward-thinking at Swanson Group with our focus on producing the best products and supporting the best people. We were one of the first mills in Oregon to adopt small log technology and we continue to seek opportunities to become more efficient and sustainable every chance we get. And that is what it’s all about: opportunity.