Our company was founded by my grandpa in 1953 as Seneca Sawmill. We are now owned by my mother and my two aunts.
We have grown over the years and we now have 168,000 acres of timberlands that we manage sustainably (we have 92% more timber on that land than we had 25 years ago), we have four world-class sawmills, and a biomass facility where use our scraps from the milling process to create enough green sustainable energy to power 13,000 local homes. It is the cleanest running biomass facility in America.
We now have 470 employees. We operate with the same values my grandfather operated with for more than 60 years. Our employees are #1, and we protect and take care of them in bad times and thrive together in good times.
Our employees are the best thing we’ve got. They are our most valuable asset. Without them, all we’ve got is a bucket of bolts and a whole lot of trees. It is that spark of magic that they bring to work every day that makes this place come to life. That makes it hum with energy and productivity.
Their passion, their knowledge, their dedication and their innovation is nothing shy of phenomenal. We are so thankful to have all of our wonderful employees, and we are also so thankful for their spouses and families.
When the fear of this pandemic started reaching Oregon, I spoke with our CEO. We knew our employees must be feeling anxious. We wanted to let them know we were going to take care of them. I pointed out that we give them turkeys at Thanksgiving and hams at Christmas, and I thought this was an important time to make sure they had the provisions they needed in their homes to keep their households running. There had been a run on toilet paper and other staples in our grocery stores. We went to work procuring these things. Nothing was easy to procure, and we had to use multiple sources, but the rice was the most difficult since it could only be purchased in 50lb bags and we had a team of folks scoop it into gallon sized containers. When we had everything ready we made the announcement to our employees.
We communicated a number of ways internally, and posted about it on Facebook as well so spouses would be informed. Here is our FB post:
TO ALL OF OUR EMPLOYEES – we will be giving a bag of provisions to every one of you. In this crazy time we wanted to make sure you had some basics at home. To that end, we’re putting together a grocery bag for each of you with toilet paper, a frozen chicken, frozen ground beef, rice, tortillas, pasta, and a couple cans of food like tuna, soup, chicken or chili. We are family, and we’ll get through this together. Eugene’s provision handout will be today, March 25, from 2p – 5:30p at Warehouse 3 near Purchasing. Noti’s handout will be Thursday from 2p – 5:30p at the employee parking lot. Roseburg will receive theirs Thursday as well. Thank you for being as incredible as you are, and showing the tenacity and grit that you have so far. We’ll get through this together, and we’ll come through as a team even closer and stronger.
The day of the handouts, cars lined up and our executives, managers, and HR placed bags in cars of our grateful employees. It was awesome!
We also are paying all of our employees’ health insurance (the part we usually pay and the part they usually pay) for the months of April, May and June.
We also have had to curtail hours of production in our mills since the market for lumber dropped, but even then we brought employees in to do non-production tasks like power wash our buildings and put on a fresh coat of paint.
An unexpected thing has happened. Employees and their spouses have hand written notes, letters, and emails of gratitude. Employees who are normally quiet and reserved have sent the most beautiful and heartfelt communications, and spouses have described what it is like to sit at their dinner table with their family and the food we gave them and cheers Seneca feeling thankful and secure in the knowledge we will take care of them. As the communications started coming in, we started a file to keep all of them. Each of these communications is a treasure to us.
In the Great Recession we were proud to be one of the only sawmills on the West Coast that didn’t let one employee go. We are determined to do the same during this pandemic even if it means operating at a loss at times. We know the value of stability to our employees and our community.
Seneca Sawmill Co. | Seneca Jones Timber Co. | Seneca Sustainable Energy
Family Enterprise USA is the organization that represents all family businesses on a national level in DC; it is not unique to any industry. FEUSA is different from other organizations because it represents and advocates for the families of family businesses and the issues, they face running their businesses every day. Our sole mission and purpose is to promote family businesses and their job growth in America. We also support the work of Family Business Centers across the country. We hope your family will choose to be a member of FEUSA. Family Enterprise USA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Family foundations can donate.