Industry Profile: Paul Ehinger: Reluctant “Elder Statesman”Industry Profile | APA - The Engineered Wood Association
...Paul Ehinger: Reluctant "Elder Statesman"
For more than half a century, Paul Ehinger
has been associated with the U.S. forest products industry in capacities ranging from recently graduated forester through corporate executive and independent consultant.Along the way he
also has contributed to the success of several prominent wood industry trade associations as an officer, director and committee member.
Now 79, he
maintains a full schedule as the principal of Paul F. Ehinger & Associates
, consulting across a wide spectrum of industry activities.He
good-naturedly rejects the role of "elder statesman," but his
vast experience over so many years makes it difficult not to regard him as such.Ehinger
entered the consulting business in 1983 following a 31-year career with Edward Hines Lumber Co.His
office in Eugene, Ore. is crowded with books, reports and mementos.
...While Ehinger is not a lobbyist, his statistics are often used by others to develop resource policy positions.His
activities are as varied as locating cedar logs for woodcarvers, providing lawyers with technical advice on trespass cases, assisting unions and producers with mill shutdown issues, and analyzing timber availability for companies contemplating new mills.Corporate decisions to expand, contract or shift product mix must be made on the basis of accurate data, he
stressed."We supply all kinds of data to people and what you find out is that no two people want data prepared in the same way."Ehinger also serves as consultant manager of the Small Business Timber Council, composed of 10 Oregon lumber companies "who share the same interest in problems related to small business."Ehinger
is not as pessimistic about timber supply as one might think, given the success of the preservation agenda in public policy decisions.
Recovery improvements have been underestimated largely because much of the lumber industry continues to measure logs with scaling rules dating to the 1880s, Ehinger
said as he
produced a turn-of-the-century Scribner Decimal C handbook.Even so, he
said, to succeed in the lumber industry "you have to have a (product) niche where you can hide or else you have to be a very sophisticated producer."
Any new mill capacity will need to be backed up by a reliable supply of timber, he
pointed out."No one is going to loan anybody money if they are dependent on federal timber."Ehinger
doesn't waste much breath on environmental controversies, other than to criticize preservationists for ignoring the needs of people as a whole."The main thing is to manage the land carefully.The other stuff is so much bull," he
dismissed the issue of salvaging timber from recent massive forest fires as a political problem."We're overproduced now in North America," said Ehinger
, a supporter of restrictions on Canadian softwood lumber imports.
Never bashful about his
describes "green" certification of lumber as "one of the biggest con games we have going" and criticized a movement among big retailers to demand square-edged lumber as a waste of wood."Industry committees, associations and research people spent a lot of time determining minimum safety standards required for material put into homes" through grading rules adopted by the American Lumber Standard Committee
.Insistence on zero wane will reduce the recovery of good wood from a log by 15 to 20 percent, he
said, driving the cost up $60 per thousand board feet.
"Associations will take every minute of your time that you will give them," Ehinger
observed.His trade association experience began in 1955, and in 1962 he was elected to the board of the American Plywood Association (now APA-The Engineered Wood Association) to replace the late Howard Lemons-his former boss at Edward Hines Lumber Co.He served on the APA board of trustees until 1980 and was president of the board from 1971 through 1973.Ehinger
admits a fondness for the "small company camaraderie" that characterized his
early years with APA
."We got things done the way big corporations never will."Consolidation among corporations has changed the complexion of associations as well as the industry as a whole.In earlier days, "we had key people on the boards who could make decisions on the spot.It's a different ball game now."Ehinger was a director and executive committee member of Western Wood Products Association in the 1960s and 1970s, during a time when WWPA was formed through merger of Western Pine Association and West Coast Lumbermen's Association.He also was active in American Forest & Paper Association when it was called National Forest Products Association, serving as resource committee chairman from 1977 to 1979 and executive committee member in 1970-1973 and 1977-1979.This he described as a "ricochet" from his work with APA.Ehinger also has been a board member and president of Industrial Forestry Association, Oregon Logging Conference and Keep Oregon Green.Today he is president of the Plywood Pioneers Association, an organization of active and retired plywood industry members who meet for the purpose of preserving history as well as continuing contacts in the industry.Ehinger
graduated in 1946 with a forestry degree from the University of Michigan
, where he
wife, Mary Ellen, and returned to Oregon in 1947 after working seven months with the U.S.Forest Service in Kentucky, Ohio and Missouri.
reserve status until 1957.
Back home, Ehinger
was assigned as foreman of a crew removing the old logging railroad that served the Westfir mill.Added responsibilities came his
way in rapid order.In 1953 he was put in charge of all forestry and timber buying operations at Westfir and in 1956 he became logging and timber manager.He
had been assistant manager of the operation for nearly a year when general manager Howard Lemons perished in an auto accident.Thus, Ehinger noted, he became general manager literally overnight in November 1960.In 1965, Ehinger was placed in charge of western operations as vice president and became senior vice president in 1973.He retained these responsibilities until he left the company in August of 1980, three years after the Westfir sawmill was closed due to the high prices bid for federal timber.
The plywood plant remained open under other ownership until late 1980.At various times during Ehinger
's tenure, the company operated sawmills at Westfir, Hines
, Burns, Bates and Dee, Ore. (the Bates mill was later moved to John Day and remodeled); St. Anthony, Idaho; Hill City, S.D.; Saratoga, Wyo.; and Walden and Kremmling, Colo. After the Westfir sawmill closed, Ehinger moved his office to Eugene along with an engineering and forestry crew.
...Meanwhile, friction was developing among major shareholders, third-generation heirs of founder Edward Hines Sr. As a member of senior management, Ehinger was drawn into controversies involving expansion and operating plans, and left the company in 1980 after "agreeing to disagree" with the owners.
The company-almost wholly dependent on federal timber for its raw material supply-was later dissolved and its assets sold piecemeal.Upon leaving Hines, Ehinger became executive vice president of the Western Resource Alliance, a Northwest-based lobbying group "dealing mostly with public timber availability."
...Ehinger was a director of Lane Plywood in Eugene from 1986 until the company was sold in 1996; a director of Alpine Veneer in Portland from 1985 to 1990; and has been a director of Riley Creek Lumber Co., Laclede, Idaho, from 1986 to the present.Paul
and Mary Ellen Ehinger had four children-two sons and two daughters.