The U.S. housing market is starting to pick up, which is good news for our sawmills. Unfortunately, there is a dark cloud looming over the Oregon sawmills.

The Port of Newport has applied for and been recommended for Connect Oregon IV (“Connect IV”) funds. These funds come from Oregon tax payers’ and lottery monies – our dollars, yours and mine — for specific use to improve Oregon’s transportation infrastructure, as legislated by our state government. The problem is that the Port of Newport wants to improve their port terminal facility with the “probable result” of exporting logs to Asia. While they have not officially come out and said that they plan to export logs, the Port’s June 2012 newsletter states, “Meetings continue between the Port and Teevin Brothers about the proposed log storage, debarking and sorting operation at the International Terminal.” Further to that, most of the letters supporting the Port’s Connect IV application came from companies who benefit from exporting logs.

We are supportive of local fisherman and other industries in the Newport community, but we believe the Connect IV process should consider the negative impacts to the local economy if these public funds are used to promote the export of raw logs. We don’t believe that the Port of Newport’s application for public funds meets Connect IV criteria of improving access to jobs and sources of labor nor results in an economic benefit to Oregon. Providing a few Port terminal jobs does not outweigh the hundreds of Oregon sawmill jobs that will be put at risk by increasing the volume of raw material that goes overseas. Hampton’s mills in Tillamook, Willamina, and Warrenton provide 500 direct family-wage jobs that could be at risk if availability of raw material continues to shrink. Another 300 indirect jobs could also be affected. And that’s just for Hampton’s operations.

We believe private land owners should have the right to sell their logs to the highest bidder, even if it means sending them offshore. However, we don’t believe that Oregon tax monies should be used for subsidizing infrastructure projects that can affect free market trade.

I plan to appear at the Oregon Transportation Commission July 18th to comment on our opposition to the Port receiving public funds under the Connect IV initiative. I plan to show the Commissioners the number of Oregonians who oppose use of their tax money for this project by presenting them with petitions signed by our Oregon employees, vendors, and friends. If you are an Oregonian interested in signing a petition, contact nologexports@hamptonaffiliates.com.

Don’t use Oregon tax payer money to send Oregon raw logs and jobs overseas!

Steve Zika
CEO, Hampton Lumber