Article by Jessica Johnson
Associate Editor

The year 2016 has been one for the history books. Just a quick read of the world’s headlines will confirm it. I would be lying if I said I was sad to see this one go…But, at the end of each calendar year, I find myself growing more and more reflective: What did I do right? Where can I improve? I scratch my head over a few of my decisions.

When I first started in the sawmill-reporter business, the very nature of Timber Processing was explained to me in college football terms. TP strives to showcase the Nick Sabans of the lumber industry first and foremost, but it doesn’t exclude the Bobby Petrinos either. Imagine my surprise when the first time I called a mill to set up a visit I was turned down! Why wouldn’t a mill coming out of a major capital investment, running wide open for the first time in years not want some added attention? “That’s just the way it is sometimes, kid,” is what my editor astutely told me.

Even knowing that, sometimes it’s impossible to know other’s motivations for why they wouldn’t want a positive article published for their peers and employees to read. I’m flummoxed when lumbermen tell us we’re not welcome in their mills with our cameras and our tape recorders.

But with each one of those unreturned phone calls, or polite but succinct emails, my appreciation for the mills that do say yes grows more and more. Across 10 issues, in 2016, the TP team brought readers 17 in-depth profiles of lumber producing facilities across North America. Without those men and women saying yes, we wouldn’t have their nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some of my favorites:

“In our business, the market is always coming back; you don’t always know when it might come back, but it always comes back.” —Jill Snider Brewer, 2016 TP Person of the Year, Snider Industries, Marshall, Tex.

“People and long-term families that operate as independents, like we do, want to be in the lumber business.” —Charles McRae, co-owner, Rex Lumber, Graceville, Fla.

“Once every couple of months we do a full realignment on all machines. If you do have saw problems, it’s usually not the saw’s fault—it’s the machine acting silly.” —Jesse Griffin, co-owner, Griffin Lumber, Cordele, Ga.

From the wood yard to the filing room, the open doors across the country have taught even the most seasoned of the TP staff a few things this year. We even joined the modern world by naming a female as our Person of the Year. I hope our coverage brought you up to date as well.

This year wasn’t just about keeping the pace for the traditional lumber industry. 2016 was also about taking a chance: September cover story D.R. Johnson in Riddle, Ore. became the first cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturer to gain certification under the ANSI/APA CLT performance standard, showing the world that American-made CLT is a viable building component.

While many historians will argue that 2016 was one for the record books as it put Britain on center stage and then the saga in the U.S. of that guy versus that girl, I’ll argue that 2016 was one for the record books thanks to the mill managers who welcomed in and walked a few dusty reporters around.

Cheers to 2017. I can’t wait to see what the latest lumber industry innovation will be. I’m sure it’ll be cover-worthy.