Weyerhaeuser Co. officials said Wednesday they are hiring new employees across all sectors of the company’s Longview operations to meet rising domestic and export demand and to replace an aging workforce.
At a community leaders’ forum at the Cowlitz Expo Center, company and timber industry leaders said nationwide housing starts are improving, Asian demand for logs remains strong and the recession appears to be in their rearview mirror.
By the end of this year, Weyerhaeuser says it will have hired about 150 new workers in Longview during 2013. Next year, officials said, the company expects to hire at least 30 new pulp mill workers and another half dozen on the docks. The company was unable Wednesday to specify the net gain in Longview employment.
Nationwide housing starts are expected to hit 900,000 this year, nearly triple the 2008 low point during the recession, said Cindy Mitchell of the Washington Forest Protection Association, a timber industry trade group, said during the meeting.
About 3.2 billion board feet of timber is expected to be harvested from Washington forests this year, a 30 percent jump from five years ago.
Mitchell said the increase is due to increased demand, which made Weyerhaeuser officials cheer.
“The industry is improving. It’s a pretty optimistic outlook for the lumber industry,” said Fred Kuhn, manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Longview sawmill.
Company officials also noted that the average age of employees is creeping into the 50s. They said they need to hire younger workers so they can learn from older workers before they retire.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t have a gap. We’ve got some new people, and we’ve got to make sure they know how to take the reins,” said Tim Haynes, vice president of Weyerhaeuser’s liquid packaging business, said.
Weyerhaeuser has 1,317 employees in Cowlitz County. The company’s largest West Coast sawmill is in Longview, along with a pulp mill and a log export dock. Weyerhaeuser also co-owns the Norpac newsprint mill with Japanese company Nippon Paper Industries.
In the most recent quarter ending in September, Weyerhaeuser reported net earnings of $157 million, or 27 per share. The company reported $343 million in sales from its timberlands division, a $20 million increase from the previous quarter. The division included for the first time the 645,000 acres of Longview Timberlands property, which formerly were owned by Longview Fibre Co. and which Weyerhaeuser bought this summer for $2.65 billion.
Weyerhaeuser shares closed at $29.73 Wednesday, up about 2 percent over the day.