74TH Intermountain Logging Conference...

Profit’s not a four letter word

Mirabeau Hotel
Spokane Valley, Washington

By Mike Crouse

The weather was stellar, as was the turnout, both by vendors and participants for this year’s 74th Annual Intermountain Logging Conferennce held at the Mirabeau Hotel in Spokane Valley, Washington. They pack a lot of information in the three day conference, which takes a running start with Thursday morning technical sessions.

The technical sessions features four presenters and an array of topics. Leading off was Komatsu’s Goran Zeravoca emphasizing both their Komtrax computerized monitoring system, and secondly the savings both in maintenance and fuel costs from turning off machinery rather than leaving them idling. Modern Machinery’s Joel Dupre on understanding your machinery better and encouraging operator’s to call technician’s sooner when they have machinery prolems. “...reaching faster can save you money.”

Quadco’s Darren Hadlock outlined some of the newer products out from their company, and improvements in their Keto processing heads, and Dave Duffin with Miller Welding gave a live demonstration in the parking lot on their portable welding machinery.

During the opening ceremonies, this year’s president Doug Bradetich noted that, “...our business realy IS a business...we house the world, that’s what we do. In order for us to be there we need to be able to run profitably.” He added, “...if we went away, the world would be worse off for it.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Mike Kralicek, who was raised in a logging family in the Coos Bay, Oregon area, served four years in the Air Force, and was a police officer for several years before being injured in the line of service, which ended that career. His presentation was about the perseverance imbedded deeply in his personality that’s allowed him to overcome that injury and maintain a positive attitude..

The first panel “Show me the money” had three lumber industry speakers on their individual routes in changing, modernizing, and expanding their businesses in the midst of changing markets. Idaho Forest Group’s Erol Deren led it off, followed by Welco, Inc.’s Brian Cox, and Pacific Lumber and Shipping’s Dan Bowden.

Typically an economist speaking after lunch would put the audience asleep, but Charlie McKetta, PhD. is not your typical droll economist... far from it. McKetta outlined some of the current economics in affecting the nation, the intermountain region, and the logging industry. McKetta’s power-point presentation with a series of graphs demonstrated that while we are officially in a recovery, it’s been very gradual and appears to be stalled. Many industries have adjusted, restructured, and many industries, including logging, will never quite be the same in part because of this restructuring and changed market realities.

Amongst the issues are pending foreclosures, with 2012 likely having a higher number than last year, in no small part to 28% of all homes being underwater (subject to foreclosure). As the excess inventory is added to from this, the recovery for housing ­­appears to be out towards the third quarter of 2014, McKetta said.

As to wood, timber, and lumber prices, “...there are things going on. It’s the trickle down part that’s not going on yet.” He did add, “...we expect future values will start creeping up by the summer.”

McKetta also noted, “...we don’t do biomass here, we use windmills. They’re subsidized to build, and subsidized NOT to produce,” whereas Europe is using biomass for power now.

Logging and sources of fiber are a question mark in the current outlook as well from the intermountain region, with the federal supply stagnant, REIT’s and TIMO’s changing the landscape, and privately held forests being very price sensitive, in addition to concerns over log prices, mill concentrations, and equipment availability.

Along with that the pending policy influences of the federal government in particular, although he did note on the positive side, “... it is an election year!”

His message to loggers, diversify, match your equipment to client needs (perhaps adding smaller equipment as well), increase your mobility, and “...add new services to logging...stewardship...the big market for stewardship is in small landowners.”

The conference also offered individual break out sessions covering a variety of topics, and a loader competition.
Never a dull moment at the Intermountain Logging Conference. The board and management are to be congratulated on another great show.