FRA Visit to Washington State


At FRA, committing to member engagement is essential for promoting collaboration, driving innovation, advocating for the industry, and building a strong, resilient community that can effectively address current and future challenges. I recently embarked on an FRA Western Region Member visit to Washington State and was privileged to gather insights from our members’ expertise. The connections forged, and wisdom shared help us bolster the #woodsupplychain.

I’m not sure what law dictates that the weather must be challenging when I travel, but whatever law it is, it was in full effect recently when I was in Portland and traversed part of the I-5 corridor in Washington. I pressed on through torrential rain, snow, and even some dry weather (for about 5 minutes). There is a reason that people seem to have webbed feet when they live west of the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. The local FRA members warmly welcomed me despite the weather, showing genuine hospitality. Although brief, my visits provided invaluable camaraderie, information, and expertise sharing.

The whirlwind tour began on Tuesday with a hybrid Western Region Steering Committee Meeting, with the in-person meeting graciously hosted by Pacific Fiber in Longview. During the meeting, we confirmed two committee vice-chairs: James Erickson of Weyerhaeuser and Jon Lucich of Veneer Chip Transport. We also discussed the upcoming joint Western Region and Fall Board Meeting in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The committee was excited to showcase the unique happenings and beauty of the Western Region. Overall, the meeting proved highly productive, providing invaluable guidance for shaping the direction of the Western Region.

Wednesday was a busy day, during which time I was able to drive a semi-truck for the first time. While I advocated trying to drive a stick shift, Dale Lemmons of Signature Transport suggested that I start with an automatic just to get a feel (something about keeping a working transmission on or something). I will say that without the trailer, the brakes were very sensitive! That afternoon, Kathy Troupe and Courtney Kent of WestRock hosted a tour of their brand-new box plant. This plant was literally put up in a few days (after many days of prep work). The entirety of the structure encompasses approximately 8 acres and is a massive facility. One of the most welcoming aspects of the plant was how I was greeted with genuine smiles everywhere I went. After the WestRock Box Plant tour, we were fortunate to be given a tour of the WestRock Paper Mill, where we saw how different types of paper were made. Overall, it was an excellent tour of the facility, and many thanks to Kathy and Courtney for organizing and hosting us. The day ended with a dinner with Jeff Marthaller of Port Townsend Paper, where we discussed the current supply situation that Pacific Northwest operators face. 

Thursday began with yet another rainstorm, but undeterred, I pressed on and journeyed to Olympia. There, I met with prospective members, gaining deeper insights into the pressing issues confronting the Washington forestry industry, including challenges with supply, endangered species, and workforce.

Overall, despite the less-than-stellar weather conditions, this trip proved incredibly productive. It allowed me to engage with prospective and current members, gaining invaluable insights into their concerns, challenges, and the exciting opportunities awaiting them in the forest products industry. And I didn’t come home with webbed feet.