Saturday, October 9, 2004

Big Island forestry
industry depends on
upcoming tests

An Oregon company hopes its engineered
lumber proves stronger

KAILUA-KONA » Executives from an Oregon company expect to know in about a week whether they can create a Big Island wood products industry or whether eight years of preparatory work have been wasted.

Tradewinds Forest Products LLC company spokesman Don Bryan showed the state Board of Land and Natural Resources a sample of the company's proposed product, a piece of engineered lumber that looks like a two-by-four but is actually sheets of eucalyptus wood glued together like a thick piece of plywood.

Two companies in Oregon will do tests on the engineered lumber in a week to find out if the product meets strength tests, Bryan told the board yesterday.

He expects tests to shows that the engineered lumber is substantially stronger than normal lumber, but a failure would bring an end to eight years of investing his own money in the idea, he told the Land Board.

Yesterday was close to make or break for the company, since the staff of the Department of Land and Natural Resources had recommended that the Land Board find Tradewinds in default of an agreement to harvest 9,000 acres of non-native trees in the Waiakea Timber Management Area south of Hilo. The harvesting would be done at the rate of 500 acres a year, and Tradewinds would replant the land as it is harvested.

The agreement also called for Tradewinds to construct a plywood and veneer plant on the Big Island by 2003, which has not happened.

Bryan said the forest products industry went into a two-year depression soon after he signed the agreement in 2001.

Now lumber mills, busy with a nationwide construction boom, have repeatedly delayed the tests he needs.

A Land Department report said if Tradewinds was found in default and the agreement was canceled, the company could still bid on a smaller portion of the Waiakea timber area.

Bryan said the lumber industry nationwide is changing toward larger companies, and a company the size of his would just barely be large enough to compete.

Land Board member Kathryn Whang Inouye told other board members that a default notice could block financing for Tradewinds. The board voted to give the company until January to complete testing and get financing.



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