Header: Header: Header:

Schooler Cuts Down The Net

EDITOR’S NOTE: Timber Processing magazine presented its 34th Annual Person of the Year award to Eric Schooler, CEO of Collins, as he prepared to embark on his new career of “retirement.” The presentation ceremony and reception, which was hosted by Hatton-Brown Publishers, Inc. and sponsored by Real Performance Machinery, occurred during the Timber Processing & Energy Expo at the Portland Expo Center in Portland, Ore., and at the Hatton-Brown Media Presentation Center in the middle of the show floor. Timber Processing magazine Editor-in-Chief Rich Donnell delivered opening remarks on the history and evolvement of the award, and Senior Editor Dan Shell spoke about Schooler’s career before presenting the award to Schooler, who received a standing ovation from a packed crowd. Here is Schooler’s acceptance speech:

Thank you to Timber Processing magazine for this special honor as my career winds down. I feel like an ex-ball boy or bat boy that has just joined the big leagues.

I have been coming to the Portland sawmill machinery show my whole career. I haven’t missed many. And I have a full collection of Timber Processing magazines at home.

Longevity goes a long way: In my case 50 GREAT years in this industry—although, there were a few recession years that challenged the heart.

It is truly an enormous honor to represent our industry. Our public reputation has gone up and down. We have been attacked over the years by many, but with the need for housing, climate change, carbon, those same people now recognize this industry as part of the solution!

A lot has changed in my 50 years in the timber industry. Yes, I look older, sometimes I feel older, hair gray, and less of it, etc. Forests are replanted, trees grow faster and straighter and our mills get a lot more lumber or plywood, or EWP out of every tree. Actually, EWP didn’t exist 50 years ago.

1972, my start, at a big high production sawmill, there was not a single computer, no PLCs, no VFDs. Sales orders were typed in triplicate and sent to the mill. That mill had J-Bar sorter #2! It didn’t work well. The rest of the world still had green chains.

My timing was lucky. Crude electronics were showing up. Nobody understood or believed in them. Computers were slow, bulky, expensive, unreliable. The guys on the floor didn’t understand or believe in them.

It was the start of the automation. As a supervisor you worked and maneuvered only as well and as fast as your crew. Technology was moving fast, faster than our industry for sure. There certainly were lots of false steps in the automation evolution. Shadow scanning (edger), feely finger scanners (trimmer), mechanical relays, cart sorters, arc sawing, and on and on: Most worked but were impractical or they were soon outdated by newer technology and ideas.

Now, five decades later we feed values and parameters into computers and they scan, process and operate almost every machine, every decision in the mill. Operators now basically oversee and watch for flow interruptions. The result is more output, fewer line workers, better grade, better working conditions, and maybe most important, more recovery from every log. We learned to rely on those who develop and maintain the computers, scanners, PLCs and automation.

I have had the great fortune to work for incredible people and companies. In my early years I was exposed to supervision in literally all areas of sawmilling, log yard to shipping and on all of the shifts. There is a big picture.

My last 35 years have been a dream. Starting at Hampton Lumber when it was a one mill company, led by John Hampton. And my last 20 years leading the Collins Companies for the amazing Collins Family. Privately held, family businesses are special. I have worked with really great people throughout these two companies. Their respective mottos— “Find a Better Way Every Day” and “Do the Right Thing”—say a lot. I was part of something special.

It has been a fascinating time to work in this business. Every day is the same, and by that I mean always changing. It has been an era of applied technology and always, continual improvement.

As I wind down my career, I will miss the brainstorming, the creative solutions, the teamwork. And I will miss all the many fascinating characters…absolutely wonderful people…and the incredible comradery within this industry.

To you young folks starting out: Work hard, volunteer for everything, ask questions, and at the same time question the answers.

Make responsible choices. Manage time and energy. Nurture relationships and be good stewards to our forests and operations.

I can only imagine what technology and opportunity will bring this industry in your 50 years.

I appreciate this award, a kind acknowledgement for a long career. I wish I could do it all over again.

Again, thank you.

Latest News

Vaagen Thanks Support For Midway Sawmill

The outpouring of support for Vaagen Fibre Canada’s Midway, BC sawmill, upon the early January Vaagen family announcement of the mill’s impending closure, was substantial, but apparently hasn’t changed the disappointing outcome, at least for now. The Vaagen family, whose Vaagen Brothers Lumber headquarters and sawmill is in Colville, Wash., announced on…

Mercer Gains Mass Timber Contract

Mercer International Inc. reported it has signed its first major mass timber project contract with a large consumer products retailer. The project, which is composed of cross-laminated timber panels, glue-laminated beams and connector elements, is expected to utilize four months of capacity at Mercer’s Spokane, Wash. facility on a one-shift basis over the course of 2023…

U.S. Housing Starts Rebound In February

U.S. housing starts brushed off a sluggish January and reached a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.45 million in February, up 9.8% over January. Single-family starts were 830,000, a percent above January, while multi-family (five units or more) were at 608,000, up a whopping 24% over January. The uptick in February broke a four-consecutive monthly decline for the combined starts…

Cooper Machine Partners With EWD

Cooper Machine Co., a long-established manufacturer of quality sawmill equipment located in Wadley, Ga., announced that it is partnering with German-based sawmill machine manufacturer EWD Sagetechnik. Cooper Machine has been offering equipment for sawmill, pallet, and post and pole mills since 1965. The company is in its third generation of successful management…

New Pellet Mill Entices Area Sawmills

Some Georgia sawmills will have a new market for their byproducts as Spectrum Energy Georgia LLC plans to begin construction this summer of the largest industrial wood pellet facility in the world at Adel, Ga. and expects to commission the plant 12 months later, or summer of 2024. The plant will operate at the site of an idled particleboard facility. The plant will have the ability to receive and process all forms of biomass, including sawmill residues (chips, sawdust and shavings), pulpwood, top wood, and in-woods chips…

Your Tax Dollars Not At Work

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Timber Processing March 2023 –You may be aware of our affiliate magazine, Panel World, which covers the structural and non-structural wood panel industries in a similar way that Timber Processing covers the lumber industry. Recently in Panel World we ran a…

Find Us On Social


The monthly Timber Processing Industry Newsletter reaches over 4,000 mill owners and supervisors.



Timber Processing is delivered 10 times per year to subscribers who represent sawmill ownership, management and supervisory personnel and corporate executives. Subscriptions are FREE to qualified individuals.


Complete the online form so we can direct you to the appropriate Sales Representative.