Quality, Unique Service Top Priority At Forest Grove By Wayne Miller
Sid Smith (front), Gene Secco and Jack Burnard make up the management team at Forest Grove Lumber Co., located in McMinnville, Ore.
McMinnville, Ore.--Forest Grove Lumber (FGL) came into being as a sawmill in Forest Grove, Ore., in 1957. Today, far from their beginnings, FGL operates a 20-acre wholesale distribution facility in McMinnville, Ore. Their site includes an expansive inventory and diverse manufacturing capabilities, including four state-of-the-art Radio Frequency Vacuum kilns and their patented Accuruff machines.
Approximately 10 million board feet of Douglas Fir make up FGL’s inventory, though the company occasionally processes other species. Many of the products they manufacture are used aesthetically in addition to structurally by custom builders, particularly timber framers. Douglas Fir, according to company president Sid Smith, is an excellent product for these uses because of its strength and ease to work with.
The four Radio Frequency Vacuum kilns FGL currently operates are used to dry large size timbers up to 40 feet long. They have trademarked these dry timbers as, Tru-Dry. Tru-Dry offers exceptional quality and appearance in addition to sound structural integrity, according to Smith. These beams are dried evenly to the core to minimize drying defects such as
Kevin Grindy, Debbie Stevens, Mike Burnard, Ryan Williams, Chris Tritschler, Gene Secco, Ronda McDonald and Scott Rimmer comprise the sales and buying team at Forest Grove.
checking, cupping and twisting. Another benefit to the builder and homeowner is the process sets the pitch in each beam preventing messy pitch leaks, Smith said.
Accuruff, FGL’s patented rough-texture process, places a rustic looking bandsaw-like finish on many of their products. The process provides the most consistently sized rough-sawn lumber available. Builders enjoy using it because it fits their standard hardware, eliminating on-job fitting issues, according to Smith.
“The Accuruff process is a big part of our business,” Smith stated. “We’re niche marketers.”
The company has put much effort into meeting demand for high-end exposed beams. Their efforts have been successful, according to Smith, who added that FGL is extremely encouraged with the growth of their timber program.
A Forest Grove employee loads an outbound truck. Lumber comes into the facility by truck or by rail through reloaders.
Forest Grove Lumber prides themselves on their ability to serve many different customers in a variety of markets. The diverse inventory, including green and dry dimension, green 3-inch and 4-inch, plus their green and kiln-dried timbers (3-inch through 12-inch), allows them to fill specified job packages and orders by the piece, unit or truckload. By also supplying custom milling, including corbelling, beveling and precision end trimming, FGL is able to put together the loads their customers need.
“We are very sensitive about the quality of our products,” said Smith.
To ensure the quality of their timbers, FGL has taken many steps to ensure the product reaches the customer in excellent condition, Smith said. They have coated much of their timber handling equipment with plastic to ensure beams remain free of marks and dirt. When they paper wrap items, they use specialized staples to minimize the negative impact of the staples on the wood. They offer special packaging to ensure their customers get precisely what they want. In addition, they have nine graders certified by the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau, to ensure their products are of the highest quality.
This lumber is ready to be sorted on one of Forest Grove’s sort chains.
Forest Grove Lumber employs approximately 100 people. Eight traders and five trader assistants make up the sales staff, which markets FGL’s products nationwide. Their buying group consists of two buyers and a buying assistant.
“Our staff works hard to exceed our customers needs,” Smith said.
FGL sells their products to a combination of retail yards, office wholesalers, distributing wholesalers and timber frame fabricators. The bulk of their business lies west of the Mississippi, however they are strengthening their presence in the east, Smith said. Their capability to ship by the piece, truck, rail and ship has helped them reach many customers across the country.
The buyers at Forest Grove purchase the majority of their products from the Pacific Northwest, bringing in green and dry dimension lumber into their facility to be processed and resold, allowing them to fill specified tallies in addition to random length loads. The team buys green full-sawn rough timbers for processing and sale. By keeping full-sawn rough timbers in stock, FGL can plane their customers orders at the time of the order to ensure a clean brig
Brett Hastings, general manager, stands in front of one of Forest Grove Lumber’s four Radio Frequency Vacuum kilns.
ht piece, according to Smith.
Smith got his first job in the lumber industry in 1965 at J.W. Copeland Lumber Co. in Oregon City, Ore., where he was a manager. In 1966, Smith went to work for North Pacific Lumber Co. With them, he helped start their Shelter Products division in Portland, Ore., as sales manager. In 1979 Smith founded Idaho Pacific Lumber Co. He acted in his role as president of that company until 1993, when he retired. After two years of fishing and golfing, Smith returned to the industry.
“I decided I needed to stimulate my mind and my energies again,” he said.
Smith was already invested in Forest Grove Lumber Co. as a partner and decided to return to the business. By 1998, Smith was involved with FGL full-time and said this has been one of the most rewarding parts of his career. His partners in the business are Jack Burnard, vice-president and head buyer, and Steve Love, a silent partner.
A load is ready to be dried in one of the kilns.
Smith said he has a theory as to how to run a business that has stuck with him for years, “Treat others like you would want to be treated.”