The forest products industry sees rising opportunities in the Columbia River Gorge, but also challenges related to a variety of production factors.
That was the message at the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District Symposium November 2 in Stevenson.
Jason Spadero, Chief Executive Officer of SDS Lumber Co. was the keynote speaker at the event, and a panel from the timber industry and related fields, listed opportunities:
- available employment and apprenticeships in skilled fields
- consumer preference for wood
They also listed three key challenges:
- a shortage of trained workforce
- unsustainable reliance on private lands for raw materials supply
- a lack of understanding of the importance of actively managed forests
SDS Lumber employs 290 people in the Gorge and built a new mill in 2016, while High Cascades employs 150.
Lumber production is also a changing field. Sawmills are now high-tech, using bio-metric scanning to determine how to cut logs for the highest yield.
The speakers said that the forest industry needs better supply predictability, and a public perception change relating to managed forests.
Emily Platt of the US Forest Service noted that forest collaboratives help reduce the politics surround forest activities.
Other key information reported at the Symposium included:
- manufacturing added 600 jobs between 2006 and 2016
- the 212 information technology jobs in Wasco County have an average wage of $169,000
- Employment in the region has grown from 25,000 in 2004 to 31,720 in 2017
- Wasco County has about 12,000 employees, while Hood River County has about 13,000