Rooted In Promise
Dean and Rod Swanson grew up in the wood industry. Their father and uncle ran a sawmill in a small town west of Eugene, Oregon where they worked before heading off to serve in World War II. Upon returning, the two brothers decided to start their own mill in Glendale, Oregon.
The post war boom for housing created a strong demand for framing and lumber. Superior Lumber Company, in Southern Oregon, was ideally located near the flourishing California market.
Grown With Vision
The key to running a sawmill is a good source of logs and Douglas County in Southern Oregon is one of the most prolific tree growing regions in the world. Because logs represent the largest single cost in running a mill, sourcing competitively priced logs is vital for long term success. In the late 1960s, the Swanson mill in Glendale was among the first in Oregon to adopt small log technology. This forward thinking retooling proved successful. In 1973, brothers Dean, Rod and Ray built Swanson-Superior Forest Products in Noti, Oregon.
In the 1970s, the next generation of Swansons entered the business, including Steve Swanson, current President and CEO and Christy (Swanson) McDowell in sales. This generation took the company to the next level with a series of acquisitions starting in the 1990s. In Glendale, the company bought Gregory Forest Products, a large neighboring mill complex, that included a plywood and veneer mill. After forty years of producing lumber the Swanson’s began manufacturing plywood. Expanding their core competencies, they made their first purchase of timberland, soon followed by the formation of Superior Helicopter, a service division used for aerial logging. These changes brought diversification to the company’s product mix and allowed entry into new geographic markets and industrial segments. The purchase of Sun Studs, a strategically located mill in Roseburg, Oregon, gave Swanson the ability to offer Kiln Dried White Fir studs, considered a high end, quality stud by dealers and builders. This launched the company further into new markets, garnering new customers.
Swanson had become a family of businesses: Superior Lumber Co, Superior Plywood, Superior Helicopter, Swanson-Superior Forest Products, and Sun Studs – a diverse product mix, customer mix and geographic market mix. To face the challenges of the new millennium, the company consolidated its business interests. In December 2001, a new holding company was established and the operating units were all combined as divisions under Swanson Group Inc. The efficiency and cost savings allowed continuation of the company’s short term strategy of growth through acquisition and the timing could not have been better! The country was ready to explode with record setting housing starts and new construction.
The latest acquisition for Swanson Group Inc. was a plywood mill in Springfield, OR, purchased from McKenzie Forest Products. The Springfield mill went through extensive capital improvements and brought a number of new specialty panels to the product mix making Swanson Group one of the largest and most diverse panel producers on the west coast. But in late 2014, tragedy struck when fire consumed the Springfield plant. Not to be deterred, Swanson Group is rebuilding this plant and promises to be back online in 2016.
A promise for the future, rooted firmly in the past.
Making tough decisions during tough times, facing economic challenges, is how Swanson Group Inc. continues to not just survive, but thrive. Swanson Group Inc. remains committed to its mission, “Our core purpose is to create opportunities and long-term security for our employees, shareholders and respective families. We desire to build a stronger company that can be passed on to future generations.” A promise for the future, rooted firmly in its past.