Timber recovers with housing

Los Angeles Times /

Even before dawn breaks, workers at the lumberyard in Lynwood, Calif., were bustling around, getting a move on the day. Men in yellow safety vests drove flatbed trucks stacked to the brim with planks of wood. Others were buzzing around in forklifts, ferrying more boards.

It’s a scene that had John Cencak smiling in satisfaction and relief. After years of anxiously waiting for the economy to rebound, the vice president of Jones Wholesale Lumber Cos. was seeing an upswing.

“You see this new truck?” Cencak said as he pointed to a glossy Freightliner truck, its white and green paint gleaming even in the dark. “We just bought three of them. That’s a half-million-dollar investment. It’s all part of the economic recovery.”

Thanks to a housing rebound in which new homes and apartments are being built, California’s timber industry is slowly on the mend after being devastated during the economic downturn.

Sawmills that cut timber into boards are reopening and hiring again. Lumber prices have soared more than 40 percent over last year.

“The last few years have been a slow recovery from the recession for wood products,” said Phil Tedder, a forestry consultant at Resource Economics. “The main consumer was new housing, and that obviously wasn’t very good. But now things are picking up.”

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