Northwest sawmills are looking to build on last year’s recovering housing market. 2012 saw sales increase by 10 percent or more from mills in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
Kevin Binam is President of the Western Wood Products Association. Binam predicts about three more years of growth in housing starts and strong demand for lumber. U.S. demand for lumber increased last year by about 8 percent.
“I would expect the employee count to increase more in 2013 than it did in 2012. Because we’re looking at three more good years, and you’ll see mills putting on second shifts and looking to increase their production,” he said.
But Binam and other analysts say that even as Northwest mills are enjoying strong demand for their two-by-fours, they a face a new challenge.
It is getting harder for western mills to find raw logs to buy because timber land owners like Weyerhaueser are selling more raw logs to China, where prices for logs are high.
Chinese construction firms rarely use lumber to build and frame homes. Instead, the logs are being used to build concrete forms or are split into strips and used to hang dry wall and ceiling panels.
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