This past month, Port staff took a tour of the Coos Bay, Georgia-Pacific (GP) sawmill to better understand and get to know one of our main shippers on the Coos Bay rail line. On an average day, GP ships approximately 12 rail cars on the Coos Bay Rail Link out of the facility. This is significant as each rail car has enough framing lumber to construct about six houses!
Most of the logs processed at the GP facility are sourced from the local basin with a small component coming from Washington and Canada. As a very volatile industry, timber prices fluctuate constantly. Bill, GP General Manager, told us that a lumber price offered on the phone is only valid for the duration of the call. It changes once you hang up the phone. Once the log gets to the facility, nothing goes to waste. The chips, sawdust, and shavings are sent to other facilities to make other products such as paper and particle board. The bark is used as bio-fuel or beauty bark for landscaping. The main product of dimensional lumber is shipped out via the Coos Bay rail line to final destinations on the east coast and southern California.
GP has a long history in the community. In 1907, the property was developed and a dock was installed at the Coos Bay site by the Coos Bay Lumber Company. GP came into the picture in 1956 with the acquisition of Coos Bay Lumber Company which at that point, included several sawmills, timberland, and the property and the dock at the current sawmill site. In 1994, GP constructed the sawmill that is on the facility today. The current mill produces green Douglas-fir lumber sizes 2x4 to 2x12. The size of lumber cut from each log is determined by a scanner that finds the best cutting solutions in the beginning of the process to maximize the value from each log. The rest of the process is also mostly automated with employees operating the machinery. In a short span of a couple hours, this mill can take many logs and turn them into lumber ready to ship out. As an observer, the coolest part was really seeing this entire process and transformation from a raw material to a product that can be bought at retail stores.