The international markets didn’t register a ripple, but on April 9, Arnie Swan drove 25 minutes from his home and reported to work at Boise Cascade’s veneer plant.

He’s a new hire, not a worker called back from one of the layoffs and shutdowns that have dogged the wood products industry for a generation. His is one of two added positions at the plant. And in the past year, the company replaced six other workers who retired, rather than let the positions go dark.

It may sound modest, but plant Superintendent Mike Henderson calls the hirings a “significant pickup.” The plant’s 50 employees produce thin layers of veneer, which are trucked to Medford and pressed together to make plywood and beams used in housing and other construction. No one is calling it a boom, but a slow rebound from the recession may be unfolding in the decimated wood products industry. That’s why the company replaced the retired workers and approved the new hires. “I wanted to have some experienced hands on board so we’re ready when things turn around,” Henderson said.

Industry observers see signs of improvement. While single-family home construction lags, wood products are increasingly used in multi-family projects and multi-story commercial buildings, said Tom Partin, president of the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council, which advocates on behalf of manufacturers.

Northwest mills aggressively sought new markets in Europe and Asia, Partin said. Also, raw log shipments from the Northwest to China and Japan have slowed, which makes more timber available to domestic mills.

From The Mail Tribune: