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Sometimes Companies Just Get Lucky

Article by Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief, Timber Processing August 2021

In this industry you are bound to cross paths with somebody again, but with one or both of you now working for a different company.

Given that I’ve been doing this trade magazine gig for 38 years, I’m never the one who is now with a different company. It’s always the other person, and most recently it was (and is) Brian Luoma, president and CEO of The Westervelt Company. He is, in an industry full of good people, very much one of them.

I remember when Luoma accepted the Westervelt position in March 2017. He had worked in various capacities for Louisiana-Pacific for nearly three decades, and after a short hiatus, the next thing he knew he and his wife were moving to Tuscaloosa, Ala., site of the Westervelt headquarters. Luoma felt very thankful that he was going to a privately owned company with vast resources, including a half million acres of timberland, and which wanted to continue to expand its wood products industry assets, with Luoma at the helm.

He was excited about the challenge of a new and different environment compared to the public company corporate world. It was while he was Senior VP of LP Engineered Wood Products when I got to spend some time with him at LP headquarters in Nashville, and shortly after he became Executive VP over LP Siding. LP was a public company, but because of executives like Luoma, it came across very personable and sincere. What intrigued me was Luoma’s history before that.

Luoma is from Fort Bragg, Calif., in the middle of redwood country up the coast a ways from San Francisco. As a toddler he would stand behind his father’s seat in the cab of a log loader and watch his dad load old-growth redwood logs onto log trucks. The young Luoma would climb into the crummy at 4:30 and ride up into the mountains. His dad, Butch Luoma, was a company logger for Georgia-Pacific and then ran LP’s road maintenance department, before semi-retiring and working for a local logging contractor. An accident in the woods killed him in 1995.

Brian Luoma’s first job for LP, while attending college, was as an assistant log scaler in the log yard at the LP stud mill in Fort Bragg. He worked for LP each summer during college, and LP moved him into the woods as a forestry technician, laying out roads and timber harvesting plans.

When Luoma graduated in Forestry from Humboldt State University in 1986, LP didn’t have a full time position for him, so he went to work for Simpson Timber Co. in Korbel, Calif. for a year, before his former boss and forestry manager at LP called him to come back.

Luoma became a timberlands manager for LP in northern California, then was wood procurement manager for the Western Region, responsible for log purchasing and log sales, and purchasing wood chips for LP’s pulp mill in Samoa, Calif. Luoma later led LP’s Northern operations OSB group out of Hayward, Wis., before moving to LP headquarters as head of forestry and wood procurement and ultimately being promoted to head up engineered wood products and then siding operations.

I met up again with Luoma in July at the company’s new sawmill in Thomasville, Ala. It’s interesting where people in our industry are from, and how they got to where they are now. As we walked along the shiny catwalks I wondered if the Westervelt employees knew of the rich and diverse forest industry experience Luoma has brought to their company.

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