EUGENE, Ore. - The Seneca Sawmill in Eugene is nearing the completion of a $60 million upgrade project.
Seneca CEO Todd Payne says the impetus for the project was a "fundamental change in the marketplace."
That change was more demand for dry lumber, and less for "green" lumber over the last 10-12 years. Dry lumber, true to its name, means lumber with a moisture level of 18 percent or less.
In response, Seneca is upgrading and installing new kilns, which use steam to dry out the wood. "It could be considered an oven or a toaster." Payne says that the ability to dry its own lumber will allow Seneca to regain market share it has lost, and break into new markets.
In addition, the company has added new edgers and planers with scanning technology to maximize the efficiency of every log. Each individual log is scanned and then automatically cut into different types of boards based on the structure and shape of that log. "Scanning technology has really evolved in the last ten years," says Payne. "And I think that's something that a lot of people outside the industry don't recognize."
Adapting to the times, Payne says, is what has kept family-owned Seneca in business for over 60 years since the first mill was founded by Aaron Jones. "We're not going anywhere. We're here for the second generation, and ultimately onto the third and fourth of the Jones family."
The project is expected to be complete in September. The Seneca Sawmill Company says it supports over 400 local jobs.