High impact: Freres gets US Forest Service grant for new-to-the-world product

October, 2017 Posted in Community

By Mary Owen

Freres Lumber of Lyons was recently awarded the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood Innovations Grant for its new mass plywood panel project.

“We were recently informed that our Mass Plywood Plant was named the Forest Service’s top project in the United States,” said Rob Freres, executive vice president. “This was a competitive process with 114 grant applications submitted for consideration.”

Tyler Freres, vice-president of sales, called the $250,000 grant important, not only for the financial support it offers, but also as a means of validating the company’s unique concept of creating mass timber panels out of veneer. Patents are currently pending, he said.

“We believe that we have created a product that will revolutionize the now emerging mass timber industry by providing a product to market that more efficiently uses our Oregon-grown Douglas fir resources,” he said. “MPP is a new-to-the-world product.”

The product is one-sixth the weight of concrete, and will provide a stronger, lighter, smaller, less expensive option than cross-laminated timbers, he added.

The grant will go toward the purchase of a Weinmann CNC machine that uses computer-aided design and computer-aided machining to saw doors, windows and all other cutouts with precision and efficiency. Panels will be cut with the CNC machine to fit specific projects, eliminating labor and time at commercial building sites.

“The machine allows processing of 12-foot wide by 48.5-foot long up to 12 inches thick,” Tyler said. “Only 10 are made and in production worldwide.”

The Mass Plywood Panel facility will be Freres Lumber Company’s seventh wood processing plant. The plant, estimated to a cost upward of $23 million, is slated to open for manufacturing in January. Approximately 20 people will be employed per shift, retaining nearly 500 existing Freres family wage jobs as well as hundreds of indirect jobs, according to company leaders.

“This grant award provides welcome financial support for our company’s significant investment in the future direction of our veneer-based wood products market,” Rob Freres said.

The Oregon State University College of Forestry and the Center for Advanced Wood Products tested the panels, confirming that MPP can achieve the same structural attributes of cross-laminated materials while using 20 to 30 percent less wood.

The OSU College of Forestry and CAWP actively collaborate with Oregon building design professionals and wood products manufacturers to drive innovation and testing for engineered wood materials, allowing the state to compete in emerging domestic and global markets, according website information.

According to Freres Lumber, the U.S. Forest Service points out that the public/private partnerships leveraged with the grants will lead to the removal of hazardous fuels from forests while spurring economic development in rural communities.

“The Wood Innovations Grant program 

that the public/private partnerships leveraged with the grants will lead to the removal of hazardous fuels from forests while spurring economic development in rural communities.

“The Wood Innovations Grant program  helps create jobs in rural communities and keeps our forests healthy,” said Tom Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service chief. “By investing in strong markets for forest products, we can incentivize sustainable forest management and sustain our rural communities.”

Freres Lumber was also approved under the Oregon Investment Advantage for a multi-year tax holiday that allows the deduction of taxable income related to new operations. The credit begins at 24 months after the commencement of operations. The company also applied for a $100,000 Oregon Business Grant for its order management system, Tyler Freres said.

Additionally, Linn County and Albany Eastern Railroad have agreed to share the cost of a new railroad crossing over Cedar Mill Road. The transportation grant is for approximately $20,000.

Lastly, Linn County commissioners recently approved an Enterprise Zone extension that gives Freres Lumber a three-year property tax abatement.

Established in 1922 by T.G Freres on the North Fork of Oregon’s Santiam River, Freres Lumber has evolved from a small sawmill to one of Oregon’s premier wood products manufacturing companies. The company operates six plants, including a small log veneer plant, large log veneer plant, veneer drying facility, studmill, plywood plant and cogeneration facility.

“We are committed to maintaining modern manufacturing facilities, producing high-quality wood products, and providing family wage jobs to the local area,” said Rob Freres. “Our veneer-based products provide a diversity of product opportunities and will add value to our commodity plywood mix.”

For information, visit frereslumber.com or call 503-859-2121.

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