Wood products manufacturing has played a key role in Lane County’s economy for generations, and through the application of innovative technologies, continues to be an important economic sector today.

Courtney Griesel, Economic Development Director for the City of Springfield weighed in on the economic impact of Lane County’s wood products industry.  “Over 8,000 residents in our region are dependent on the industry for wages, benefits, and quality of life.  If this number is totaled with those jobs impacted, supported, or benefited by the wood products manufacturing jobs, then over 16,000 households and 40,000 residents in our region are dependent or supported by the industries success and hardships alike.”

Over a dozen industry representatives were present for the first Wood Products Sector convening and the message was clear: remove the local barriers to industry growth!  Key takeaways emphasized the necessity of better alignment and coordination of local service providers and support agencies with industry to advocate for better policies, promote industry value, grow the workforce, and provide better technical assistance.

According to Jeff Thompson, Vice President of Manufacturing for Swanson Group, Inc. “of the several challenges the wood products industry faces here in Oregon, the shortage of labor, in particular skilled labor, is nearing the top of the list.  Developing, recruiting, and retaining people in the skilled trades needed to run our operations is a significant challenge.  Despite the advancements in safety, technology, and automation in our modern facilities, the industry as a whole is challenged by the antiquated public perception of what it is like to work in our manufacturing facilities.  The Wood Products Sector team is working hard with industry to change this perception through educating people in the local community and breaking down the barriers to get talented people attracted to a career in wood products.”

Why focus on Wood Products?  Here’s why…

Lane County is home to over 60 wood products manufacturing companies, employing over 8,000 people and bringing nearly $400 million dollars in wages to the area. The industry’s average wage of $21.36 an hour is slightly higher than the average Lane County wage of $20.51 an hour.

There is a challenge for local manufacturers to recruit appropriate candidates to fill open positions.  Over the next 10 years, the Oregon Employment Department estimates that there will be more openings to fill in wood products manufacturing than currently work in the industry.