At one time my three sons and my husband worked for Weyerhaeuser all at one time. Yeah, my husband was a retiree from Weyerhaeuser. . . . It's a good job. They get well paid for there, too, and so much of it is computerized now that it's not the hard work it used to be. You know, you got to know how to run a computer to work there.
Evelynne Pleaurd remembers better times in the timber industry.
By 1951, Cottage Grove was already past its timber heyday. However, the 1980s dealt a serious blow to the industry in the Willamette Valley and elsewhere and removed it from economic prominence. The timber industry and those who worked for it had experienced boom and bust periods before but the 1980s sent many workers looking for entirely new occupations as mills closed in record numbers.
In 1980 alone, 93 mills in Oregon closed and 73 slowed production putting a total of 13,519 people out of work and effecting thousands of others who worked in support industries. Cottage Grove saw a decline of 68 percent in timber-related jobs between 1979 and 1989. Poverty in the city has gone up 16% in the last decade.
Related factors affected the industry in Oregon. Overcutting and a curtailment of timber cutting on public lands slowed the pace of harvest. Automation and the export of raw logs meant that fewer mill workers were needed for the lumber that was harvested. Both of these affected people in Cottage Grove who found that the jobs they had were not as secure as they once were.
There are not many opportunities for young people. We've had this business here for fifty years and we'll probably quit in the next five years because we cater to the forest products industry and as it gets smaller and smaller then our business gets smaller. We've gone from a hundred employees down to thirty-five or forty and it's a question of how long you want to hang on. It's had a drastic affect in a lot of ways. Cottage Grove was a timber-based economy and I don't know what the base is now.
Carlton Woodard, owner of Kimwood Manufacturing and former owner of Woodard Lumber Company, 1999.