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SWEET HOME — The impending sale of Weyerhaeuser’s Foster Plywood plant to the family-owned Murphy Company of Eugene is good news for Sweet Home, according to Bob Dalton, who spent 38½ years in the wood products industry.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the month. 

Dalton started working as an hourly employee for Willamette Industries right out of high school in 1973, and retired in 2012 in a supervisory role.

“The Murphy Company has come in with plans to keep jobs in our community. I know it’s always tough for the employees when a transition like this occurs,” Dalton said. “They have to go from one style of doing things to a different direction with the new company.”

Dalton said he was “fortunate to work for one company for an entire career. In the long run, this is good for our community.”

He said Foster Plywood shifted its production capacity over the years to meet market and economic conditions.

“It became increasingly difficult to make money producing plywood, so we switched to processing logs into veneer and drying the veneer,” Dalton said.

Foster Plywood was founded in 1958 and at one time was housed in a building that was one-quarter mile long. Although it originally peeled logs, dried the veneer and made plywood panels, it now produces and dries veneer that is shipped to other plywood plants.

The operation has about 117 employees.

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In 2004, in response to increasing plywood prices and to increase efficiency, Weyerhaeuser installed a state-of-the-art spindleless lathe at the plant. The lathe peeled 8-foot-long blocks of wood into veneer and the company had the capacity to produce 300 million square feet of veneer and plywood.

Weyerhaeuser acquired the facility when it purchased Willamette Industries in 2002. At the time, Willamette Industries had 90 facilities in the United States, plus operations in Mexico, Ireland and France.

Willamette also owned 1.7 million acres of timber lands. It was founded in 1906 in Dallas, Oregon.

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Weyerhaeuser was founded in Longview, Washington, in 1900. The company has more than 13,000 employees, owns more than 13 million acres of timber lands and manages another 14 million acres in Canada.

Founded in 1909, the Murphy Company has plants in Eugene, Sutherlin, Rogue River, White City, Oregon, and Elma, Washington. Company president is John Murphy Sr. and vice-president is his son, John Murphy Jr.

The company produces softwood plywood, veneered hardwood plywood and panels and engineered wood products.

According to the Murphy Company website, the company is looking for employees at what it calls “Murphy Veneer Foster,” including “skilled, semiskilled and unskilled production employees, including but not limited to lathe, clipper, heavy equipment and forklift operators.”

There are also job openings for millwrights, electricians, diesel mechanics and boiler operators.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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