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Green demand brings new mill to Morrow County

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Collins will mill wood from a poplar farm adjacent to its new facility.

BOARDMAN — While mills around the state are cutting back or shutting down, the Collins Cos. breaks ground this summer on a new $35 million sawmill in Boardman. With plans to process 60 million feet of logs per year by 2011 (enough to build 8,000 homes), it will be the largest hardwood mill on the West Coast.

Many mills haul timber all the way from Canada, but the new facility is literally adjacent to its timber source. Managed by GreenWood Resources in Portland, the 17,000-acre farm is Forest Stewardship Council-certified and grows a quick-growing species in the poplar family marketed as Pacific Albus. Used for products such as moldings, window frames and doors, its primary competition is wood from South America. Wade Mosby, Collins Cos. CEO, lays it out this way: “Would you rather buy a local, high-quality product or something shipped from the other side of the world?”

The venture will employ 150 people between the mill and the tree farm with wages exceeding the county average of $30,797. The average wage and benefits package at the sawmill will be about $46,000, garnering the support of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department through the Enterprise Zone and Oregon Investment Advantage tax programs.

The Collins Cos., a family-owned business since 1855, is the first private U.S. forest products company to be independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The company owns nearly 300,000 acres of certified sustainable forests and draws power for its Fremont mill in Lakeview from a biomass power plant. Steam from the biomass plant generates electricity for the mill, heats the plant in winter and is used to dry lumber.

A growing demand for eco-friendly lumber is expected to be spurred on even further by new green residential building standards and large companies such as Home Depot introducing “Eco Option” labeling. Mosby declined to give sales figures but says he’s seen a “substantial” growth in sales of the company’s sustainable products.

— Brooke Matschek

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