Optimistic on the Future

Valley River Inn
Eugene, Oregon

by Mike Crouse

“Turning the corner...” was the theme of this year’s Associated Oregon Loggers Annual Meeting, and it was apparent from the conversations amongst the members that the vast majority, who experienced a pretty strong showing in 2012, are not only working, but actually are scheduled well ahead. They’re coming out the end of the long tunnel at last, can see daylight, and are finding their services in demand.

The meetings were held at Eugene’s Valley River Inn, and the attendance was stronger than its’ been the past several years. While the annual meeting’s official start was Friday, the previous day presented too additional meeting both well worthwhile: the Council of Forest Engineer’s (COFE) Northwest Region annual seminar and later in the afternoon a seminar on the Oregon Forest Practices, all of which have credits that apply for logger’s continuing education credits for Professional Loggers ongoing certification.
All of this contributed to the strong turnout, of some 250 loggers, and others in attendance.

President Bruce Zuber presided over opening ceremonies gaveling the meeting to order, noting “...seriously, I believe things are starting to shape up for 2013 and hope it’s the beginning to the road to recovery. I’m optimistic on our future.” He added, “...there are challenges we need to address,” then continued, “...we’re going to discuss the political landscape. It is what it is and we’ll deal with it.”

The scheduled keynote speaker, Rich Lowry, Editor of The National Review, was not able to attend (personal emergency) sending instead Kevin Williamson in his place, and while a bit dour in his outlook, he was living proof that not all journalists (especially those from the east coast) drink from the same Kool-Aid glass. He then gave a short review of what he described as “the dependency agenda” and “what is and what’s not happening in the nation’s capital”

“Thinking what the election means,” Willamson explained, “... think about the Obama Administration’s relationship to the environmental industry. The good news is you’re not at the top of the environmental hit list; you’re about third. It used to be coal, but right now top of the list is natural gas,” and the hysteria over “fracking,” a long used practice to release supplies from the Earth. “It’s amazing, the hysteria over fracking, which has gone on the past 100 years,” but presently that’s finding a lot of attention.

Similarly he noted there are two environmental movements. The main one is concentrated primarily on the conservation ideals of Teddy Roosevelt, national parks, open spaces, and people who are campers, hikers, and “tread likely,” orientation. The other movement, “...has little to do with the environment: its political ideology. They have little to do with former (enviro group’s) views. You won’t find them hunting, fishing. Their natural environment is Starbucks, miles from the nearest tree.”

The Lorax effect

Similarly he noted “...we live in a juvenile culture where people don’t realize where things come from.” He then added, “...we have a generation of people who’ve only been in a classroom or in an office. To explain to them there are natural trade-offs, they just can’t appreciate it. They can’t understand why you make these tradeoffs,” and he concluded, “...it really shapes the environmental debate.”

As an example, he pointed to electric cars. “Try to explain an electric car is a coal car: that’s what generates electricity! They think electricity comes from a plug in the wall. That’s the power of the Lorax there! It shapes the culture in huge important ways.”

He noted a changing paradigm that’s helped shape the election as well. “Business groups, and conservatives in general spend money on commercials to change minds, but in these juvenile times money’s better spent getting people to the polls. If the turnout for Romney had been what was expected, he’d have won the election. He lost the election because he didn’t get his people to the polls!” His advice: “If you’re going to spend money build up a get out the vote operations. It’s hard to change people’s minds. They don’t respond to facts, reasons, logic. They respond to the Lorax.”

Williamson noted the record fines issued by the beloved EPA, and their zealousness of the past several years. “The Obama Administration has some sympathies with the enviros at least. We also know this White House is petty and vindictive.”

A large share of the policy problem Williamson explained, is “...not just the president, but half of the congress thinks you’re not just the problem but at best a part of the past. This is old business, they think it’s primitive, a throwback to less enlightened times.”

He noted that in an unusual sort of way, our countries continued slip towards bankruptcy has some good news in that, “... the ore fiscal pressure DC’s under, the less time they have to interfere with things (in general).” And that the better place to have an impact is at the state level.

In the short term Williamson advised caution. “The Obama Administration will do something to make your life miserable.”

In the long term he reminded us that, “We’re still the most productive economy in the world so far. As long as no one messes up the shale boom, we’ll be the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. When you’re the largest exporter you don’t care about the Saudi Arabia’s of the world.”

He finished in typical journalistic fashion noting, “...there’s no reason we can’t do well. In the future government will be less in our business because it will be broke.”

Other programs

Graham Slater, with the Oregon Employment Department outlined some of the structural changes in the economy that have resulted in long term unemployment. “The reason businesses aren’t hiring,” said Slater, “is uncertainty overall.”

“Connecting training (and preparation) to the work force needs is not all about degrees,” he said noting you have to machine the business needs with those who have the right skills and attitude.

The change in executive leadership of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) brought long time head Rick Cantrell to review the changes and success of SFI, and introduce their new Executive Director Gregor MacIntosh.

Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-D) was a refreshing breath of fresh air conveying a grasp of some sanity from the Democrat chamber in DC. He spoke about the ongoing issue on O&C Lands and changing policies how to approach that, and the financial mess in the nations capital. On the spending and taxing question he emphasized, “...it’s all about choices. There is no nirvana.”

“I’m optimistic, not pessimistic,” Schrader explained.

The annual AOL membership meeting followed that afternoon, with a strong turnout, and some lively discussion.

There was a special presentation on AOL’s “Job Costing Project” that brings together a format for considering all your costs when bidding a logging job. The project is ready for presentation in the near future, with classes available that will include the costing handbook, the log cost program, and the training session itself. It promises to be very worthwhile for our industry.

Saturday started with motivational Michael Anthony, on “The Total Mental Makeover,”

Demonstrating throughout that one’s attitude sets the course in your approach to life.

Physican, Dr. John DiPaola, outlined the big difference in outcomes for injured workers when the physician works positively with the injured worker. “Communication is critical,” he noted and his “efficiency based management” support program has a record of helping workers return to work faster and with far more positive attitudes.

What corporate structures fits your company best brought attorney’s John Hickey and Brad Erickson to explain the options. The issue surfaced over a case in which an LLC whose individuals were determined to have personal liability in the injury of one of their workers, putting other LLC’s members in potential jeopardy. They outlined some options and ways to restructure one’s company.

The final presentation was on the latest logging technologies, which closed out the session. Presentations were made by Madill, Koller, John Deere, and Ponsse.
Overall the AOL again delivered on a great group of programs that have been the hallmark of their annual meeting.