Stimson Lumber blames Oregon politics for 60 job cuts
Oregon-based Stimson Lumber is blaming an unfriendly business climate in Oregon for the company's decision to scale back by 40% operations at its sawmill in Forest Grove.
In a press release issued Friday, May 31, CEO Andrew Miller blamed legislation passed at the state level in recent years along with bills currently being considered in the Oregon Legislature as main factors for the company deciding to eliminate more than 60 full-time positions at the sawmill.
"It breaks my heart that due to the rising cost of doing business in Oregon, our company is forced to shift operations to states like Idaho and Montana …," Miller said.
While Miller didn't identify specific plans to beef up operations in Idaho or Montana, he estimated that taxes, fees and regulations in Oregon have made it 5% to 7% more expensive to produce lumber products in Oregon than in the other two states.
Stimson Lumber traces its roots back to the mid 1800s. The family behind the company farmed trees in Michigan before expanding west into Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The company weathered the Great Depression, opening the Forest Grove mill in 1933. The mill employs approximately 50% of the company's workforce in Oregon; the eliminated positions represent about 20% of Stimson's overall employment in the state, according to the company.
Miller said the profit margin at the mill has been squeezed in recent years by a clean fuels tax the Oregon Legislature passed in 2015. He anticipates the pressure on Stimson Lumber and other businesses in the state will be exacerbated by a recently approved state commercial activity tax and pending cap-and-trade legislation.
Miller called out legislators for what he described as a lack of support for businesses, especially those in rural parts of the state.
"I do not need to be hit with a 2x4 in the face to see that Oregon is an urban state and rural Oregon is a place for urbanites to recreate," Miller said in his released statement. "Investment capital and jobs are mobile. I see the smoke. I do not need to wait for the fire. It is time to adapt to a changing environment by moving on."
In addition to Forest Grove, Stimson Lumber has Oregon operations in Tillamook and Clatskanie. The company did not indicate any plans to scale back operations in those locations.
Miller is a prominent donor to conservative causes and candidates.
Unified Business Oregon, a nonprofit that lobbies on behalf of business, said in a statement that the layoffs were the "canary in the coal mine" and would foretell other businesses moving production out of state.
"Governor Brown's big reveal today that she wants to 'invest' the Kicker Rebate into rural Oregon does nothing more than placate people who are losing their jobs, while failing to do a wholesale evaluation of how policies she is signing into law are impacting real lives in real time," said UBO director and former Tualatin mayor Lou Ogden. "If people in rural Oregon have good paying jobs, they wouldn't need government subsidies for the internet and housing. Her proposal is fool's gold when families are being laid off because of polices she and urban lawmakers support."
Editor Geoff Pursinger contributed to this story.