We are closing out our second year living and working in a global pandemic and while it hasn’t been easy, as a company I think we’ve found our stride. Our internal protocols have been largely successful at keeping people safe and our facilities operational. That said, we are certainly not immune to challenges and tragedy. Some of us have lost friends and family members this past year. My heart goes out to all those who have experienced such loss. While the COVID-19 virus continues to throw humanity curve balls, with improved availability and utilization of testing and vaccines, we are certainly in a better place than we were last year at this time and that should make us optimistic for the future.
Despite fears of continued inflation, the economy has recovered quickly. The lumber market rollercoaster ride continued throughout 2021 and high demand for wood products combined with low interest rates, and volatile weather have led to high lumber prices overall. While the work has been difficult and uncertain, the company has been rewarded for persevering through so many years of the Great Recession. In 2021, we were pleased to be able to share millions of dollars in bonuses with our employees in recognition of the hard work and success this past year. We were also able to invest in our future by acquiring roughly 95,000 acres of timberland in Washington and committing to significant capital projects at several mills. While progress at our new sawmill in Fort St. James, BC slowed somewhat due to the pandemic and ongoing supply and workforce shortages, I’m pleased to say we are still on track to start up the new mill in 2022.
Hampton has always played an active role in supporting local communities and 2021 was no different. This year, we donated approximately $500,000 to local youth, hunger, and indigenous programs, workforce development, diversity and empowerment, and urban tree planting efforts. 2021 also marked the fourth year of Hampton’s Scholarship Program, which provides children and spouses of Hampton employees with awards ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 for full- and part-time undergraduate or vocational study. Awards are renewable for up to three years or until a degree or certification is obtained. This year, Hampton awarded $300,000 in scholarships, which included 24 new scholarships and continued support for another 23 students. In 2022, we expect to once again increase our various charitable efforts to give back where we can make a difference.
The coming year will mark Hampton Lumber’s 80th anniversary. I know the Hampton family is immensely proud of what this company and our employees have been able to achieve over the past 80 years despite the uncertainty and adversity our industry must sometimes face. While recessions, ‘timber wars’, and a global pandemic have presented their own unique challenges, our ability to problem-solve and adapt has allowed us to thrive. Innovation can take many forms and I see it on display in all aspects of our business. Whether it’s a more efficient process, investment in community outreach, or a pioneering habitat enhancement project, Hampton has become an industry leader not only in wood production and marketing, but in how we engage with the world around us. I feel confident that our commitment to being good neighbors, thoughtful listeners, creative thinkers, and committed partners will be an enduring part of our legacy.
The historic Private Forest Accord in Oregon will no doubt feature in that legacy. After years of escalating conflict, in 2021 private timberland owners and environmental organizations in Oregon came to agreement on updates to forest policy in Oregon. Hampton’s leadership role in brokering this agreement is both a reflection and a continuation of the commitment we have to finding a better way every day in all we do. And others take notice. From local contractors to national customers, those around us seem to recognize and appreciate our commitment to quality, safety, community and environmental stewardship. I’m delighted to say that extends to customers such as Lowe’s, which awarded Hampton its Sustainability Award this year.
While we have managed great things, there is more work to be done. Through our continuous improvement program we are working on employee safety, on-time shipping and enhanced lumber quality.
As a company, I believe we also have a role to play in helping our communities address pressing social challenges. While there are certainly limits to what a single company can do, there are natural connections between our work and needs associated with affordable housing, workforce development, and climate change. In the coming year, we plan to announce new goals and activities aimed at reducing our carbon footprint, increasing diversity, and supporting use of renewable wood products in the built environment to provide both shelter and greener options for development.
While of course we remain cautious about the pandemic and its impacts in the short-term, we remain optimistic that our hard work and flexible approach will allow our company to thrive for another 80 years.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
Steve Zika, CEO