OSU helps Oregon's forest products industry stay on top
Innovation center connects manufacturers with researchers and provides technical assistance
From the end of World War II until 1989, timber harvests in Oregon generally ranged from 7 billion to 9 billion board feet annually. Since 1989, timber harvests on federal lands have dropped about 90 percent because of environmental litigation and a change in management emphasis.
That reduction in supply combined with increased global competition has forced Oregon's forest products industry to rethink how it does business. To help, the Oregon State University Extension Service and OSU's College of Forestry created the Oregon Wood Innovation Center (OWIC) in 2006. Its mission is to connect manufacturers with researchers, provide technical support and facilitate networking within the industry. Its faculty include experts with Extension and OSU's Forest Research Laboratory.
"Any time I have needed wood products-based information, testing or assistance, I always have called upon OWIC," said Scott Meyers, founder of Westcoast Hardwoods. "[OWIC staff] helped my company with a worksheet to convert nominal softwood sizes and costing to net sizes and costs, then converting all that data to the metric system so we can trade internationally. This will be, and is, one of the most valuable tools we have ever had next to the computer."
The center also helped a southern Oregon firm that was having problems with the strength of the adhesives used in its laminated pine products. OWIC tested five adhesives and recommended the best one to the company. The company said the new adhesive has outperformed the prior one it was using and that it reduced its adhesive costs by 15 percent to 20 percent over the course of a year.
It's work like this that helps keep Oregon's forest sector on the forefront in creating engineered wood products. That's important given that the sector accounts for one in 20 jobs in the state. It directly employs 76,000 Oregonians and generates $5.2 billion in total income, of which $3.5 billion is employee compensation, including benefits. Home to 200 mills, Oregon’s lumber output in 2011 accounted for nearly 16 percent of total U.S. production, making the state the No. 1 producer of plywood and softwood lumber in the nation.