Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: Reflecting on Life and Business in 2023

Putting pen to paper on December 7, I recall it as a “day of infamy” declared by President Roosevelt when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.

More than 400,000 Americans died and up to 85 million people perished in World War II.

Atrocities continue today in Ukraine and Israel. COVID-19 and the Labor Day 2020 fires have greatly impacted our lives close to home.

It’s important to keep in perspective what’s most important in our lives; our health, our families and our relationships. The Serenity Prayer is helpful to calm life’s chaos: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Earlier this month, my daughter Libby texted me photos of an overturned truck on Interstate 5, closing the highway. She was just six cars behind the wreck, shaken up but unharmed. My granddaughter’s school sent me a “Parent Alert” about the highway closure. A bit of humor came to me when I thought, my daughter is 48 years old and I’m still getting parent alerts. Parenting is for life and blessedly so.

Rob Freres

The company is completing its 101st year in 2023. It hasn’t been without challenges, but in sync with the Serenity Prayer’s direction to change the things we can, we are developing a new way to lay up plywood with less labor and less physical demands. It will also allow us to utilize Plant 2’s long length veneers into higher value products.

We are widening the openings in one of the plywood presses to make thicker products, further diversifying our mix of offerings to customers.

Plant 1’s pair of new composers are working well to increase the value of our narrow veneers into full sheets. The composed sheets are easier to handle and increase the throughput of our dryers.

We are proceeding with the renovation and installation of several more composers at the plywood mill. An old building west of the breezeway at Plant 3 will be removed and replaced with a new 58,000 square foot storage building made with our Mass Ply early next year. The space is needed for our additional new products and increased output.

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The future log supply issue is challenging. The 2020 Labor Day fires disproportionately burned private lands where mills receive over 90% of their supply. A Private Forestry Accord was signed into law this year and goes into effect January 1, 2024. It’s estimated to reduce land available for harvest by 15%. The Department of Forestry is entering into a Habitat Conservation Plan to reduce harvests on State lands by 34%.

To address these events, company lands will be more intensively managed. We will thin our younger stands and fertilize to accelerate growth. The investments in automation and robotics will provide the means to compete at timber auctions. This year we were successful purchasing 10 sales with 50 million board feet of timber. Our innovations will provide the path to prosperity. 

In closing, I’d like to share one of my favorite lyrics about life from the legendary Jimmy Buffet, who we sadly lost recently: ““Some of it magic, some of it tragic, but a good life all the way!”

Keep the faith and have a wonderful 2024.


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