Weyerhaeuser workers celebrate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Ardy Osmundson tried Weyerhaeuser Paper Co.

Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Ardy Osmundson tried Weyerhaeuser Paper Co.’s Austin plant and liked it.

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In fact, she liked it so much, she stayed.

When October arrives, she will celebrate 42 years of employment with the company at its Austin plant.

"It’s a good place to work. Weyerhaeuser has been good to me," she said.

Weyerhaeuser has been good to a lot of people and for a long time.

The company is celebrating its centennial in 2000. Last week, John Fox, a regional vice president based in Aurora, Ill., visited the Austin plant to join in the 100th anniversary events.

According to Fox, Weyerhaeuser consistently makes the top echelons of "favorite-places-to-work" lists.

Rich in history both for environmental stewardship as well as business acumen, the company is not resting on its laurels. According to Fox, the acquisition of a Canadian-U.S. company last November added 14,000 employees to the Weyerhaeuser family of workers.

"Weyerhaeuser is well-positioned for the future," Fox said. "We value our history as much as our employees."

Ron Wise, the Austin plant’s general manager, and Dennis Bray, long-time employee and bargaining unit president, complimented each other and echoed Fox’s words about Weyerhaeuser being a good place to work.

Wise called the company a "stable" employer who is "well-liked and well-respected."

Bray said the company’s Austin work force has seen a very low turnover and leads its division in safety milestones.

The company has 118 bargaining unit workers and 24 management and administration employees. The Austin plant currently is working three shifts.

Both Fox and Wise, as well as Bray, talked July 11 how the company is not only a survivor, but a legitimate American success story. How it earned that status is explained in a special centennial publication and being shared by company personnel, such as Robbin Knudtson, human resources director for Weyerhaeuser, who talked about company history last week.

"Weyerhaeuser is an international forest products company whose principal businesses are the growing and harvesting of trees; the manufacture, distribution and sale of forest products; including logs, wood chips, building products pulp, paper and packaging products; and real estate construction and development," Knudtson noted.

"It is also one of North America’s largest producers of forest products and a leading recycler of office wastepaper, newspaper and corrugated boxes," she said.

Weyerhaeuser Co. was incorporated by a group of investors led by Frederick Weyerhaeuser in 1900. There has been a Weyerhaeuser family member involved in the operation for the entire 100 years of its operation.

The Austin facility began operation in 1954 by Kieckhefer-Eddy Paper Co. and was purchased by Weyerhaeuser in 1957.

According to Knudtson, Weyerhaeuser is the world’s largest private owner of merchantable softwood timber and the world’s largest producer of softwood lumber and market pulp. It also is the top forest products exporter in the United States and among the top U.S. exporters overall.

Weyerhaeuser currently has more than 45,000 employees in the United States and Canada. Currently Weyerhaeuser has $14.8 billion in 1998 total with $1.1 billion in exports from the United States.

Weyerhaeuser owns or manages some of the most productive forests in the world (5.3 million acres). The company has been managing forest lands since 1900 and currently supports the largest private silvicultural and environmental research staff in the world. It also owns and operates eight seedling nurseries and 17 tree farms.

In the western United States, Weyerhaeuser harvests about 2 percent of its forests each year. The reforested site will be ready for harvest again in 40 to 50 years. In the southern United States, Weyerhaeuser harvests about 3 percent of its forests each year. Here loblolly pine matures earlier than such western forest species as Douglas fir, noble fir and western hemlock. As a result, the forest growth period is shorter – about 35 to 40 years. Forest lands generally are replanted within one year of harvest

According to Fox, Weyerhaeuser’s vision for the future of becoming the best forest products company in the world means that Weyerhaeuser must lead the industry in forest management and manufacturing excellence.

This vision, repeated in the company’s official centennial history book, also includes a commitment to employees, customers and shareholders to support the communities where the company does business, to hold itself to the highest standards of ethical conduct and environmental responsibility, and to listen to and communicate openly with Weyerhaeuser people and the public.

Hy-Vee Food Store of Austin catered a picnic dinner for each shift’s workers last week.

Fox joined the day-shift workers for noon lunch on the front lawn of the Austin plant beneath banners heralding the company’s centennial and boasting of another safety milestone: 240 days without a recordable accident and 520 days without a lost-time accident.

Earlier this year, Wise donated copies of the company’s official history, "Tradition Through the Trees – Weyerhaeuser’s First 100 Years" to local libraries.

Another good resource is the book about company founder Phil Weyerhaeuser entitled simply "Lumberman."

Another source to tell the Weyerhaeuser story is long-time employee Osmundson.

Her husband David is a retired Hormel Foods Corp. worker, and the couple has three daughters and six grandchildren.

Osmundson’s punctuality is well-known and an achievement she is proud to claim.

Currently, she works as a curtain coater operator.

On the occasion of the centennial celebration, veteran employee Osmundson said she wouldn’t trade her job or employer for "nothin’."