SWEET HOME — Many businesses talk about “family values,” but with a family tree dating back to the 1850s in the Sweet Home area, family is truly at the heart of both Rice Logging and Robert L. Rice Trucking.
Founded in the early 1980s by Robert Rice and his wife, Rose, today’s operation feeds 50 families, from Monmouth to Sutherlin, but remains firmly rooted on the family land claim on Rice Road near Holley. Another 12 people work on the trucking side.
At 81, Bob Rice remains active in the business, mostly building roads, while sons, Chris, Dan and Doug take care of day-to-day operations and wife Rose, daughter Jeannette Hoover and niece, Heather Swanson, keep the office running smoothly.
Everyone in the family is a Sweet Home High School graduate. Bob graduated in 1950 and Rose in 1953.
What makes the operation a bit unusual is that Chris Rice is a full-time pharmacist when he isn’t bidding logging jobs and brother Dan is an electrical engineer who spends two weeks out of each month working for a utility company on the big island of Hawaii.
“We do both tower and shovel logging,” Chris said. “Like everyone else, about 1990 we switched over to mechanized operations from big wood after the spotted owl issue.”
The three brothers bring their own expertise to the table.
Chris handles contracts, planning and decides how each logging job will run.
Dan focuses on mechanical work and Doug focuses on maintaining and moving equipment.
“We try very hard to communicate effectively,” Chris said. “We still rely on dad, too. We each have a niche.”
After federal and state timber sales dried up in the 1990s, the business has worked almost totally for Weyerhaeuser, gaining a reputation for quality work and safety, both valued by their employer.
“We have done work for Cascade Timber Consulting, Roseburg Lumber and Roseboro Lumber, Guistina and Tomco, but mostly, we work for Weyerhaeuser,” Chris said.
Most timber sales are in the 45- to 50-year-old range, Chris said.
A key to the family’s success has been hiring good people and treating them right, Chris said.
“Dan Jones, who runs a log processor, has been with us since 1973,” Chris said. “Justin Chafin started with us right out of high school about 1996. He’s a mechanic and jack of all trades for us.”
Another Rice tenet is that the heart of their business is “providing a quality service to the landowners.”
“Log quality is the key and we have to deliver, every time,” Chris emphasized. “That means we deliver logs that aren’t cracked, that are the right length and properly graded and sorted. Every log must be properly evaluated to generate the most value for the landowner.”
Brother Dan agreed.
“It takes a lot of skill to get the log to the right place, because it’s a moving target and decisions have to be made quickly,” Dan said.
For example, should a tree be kept at 80 to 100 feet and sold as a powerline transmission pole, or cut into 60-foot lengths as a domestic log? The difference in value to the landowner can be in multiples of hundreds of dollars, not just a few dollars one way or another.
The brothers agreed that logging “is a good life ... it gets in your blood.”
“The challenge is to be able to look at a job and determine how to most efficiently get it done,” Chris said. “Where should the roads go in? Where should landings go? Should it be a shovel or tower operation?”
Being family-run also allows the companies to make decisions that benefit the community. Both companies are well known for their local philanthropy, from helping build the Weddle Covered Bridge in Sankey Park to supporting the annual Working Loggers Relays and youth-oriented activities in Sweet Home.
“We have 50 employees and that means 50 families rely on us,” Chris said. “We feel that responsibility. It’s also why we greatly emphasize safety above all else.”
Safety meetings are held frequently and there’s a day-long safety seminar held annually. “We talk about everything from CPR to new safety issues,” Chris said. “We also have a safety incentive program company-wide. Weyerhaeuser is a zero-tolerance company when it comes to safety and we emphasize that.”
And taking care of the environment has also been a big issue for Bob Rice. He once told a logging magazine reporter that he insists his truck drivers move their loads across the entire width of a roadway to avoid building up a crown in the middle of the road, which could set up erosion issues.
What does the future hold to keep Rice Logging a family operation?
“There are some cousins, so there’s potential,” Chris Rice said.
But he added, with a smile, that the trio of brothers still have a lot of years left in them.
Year founded: 1980
Business purpose: Logging and trucking operations from Monmouth to Sutherlin.
Number of employees: Rice Logging, 50; Robert L. Rice Trucking, 12.
Keys to longevity:
• Provide customers with top-notch service, shooting for top value on every log.
• Treat employees and customers like they are