2014 Lumberman of the Year

Mike Phillips

Our 2014 Lumberman of the Year Award is a native Oregonian, born in Baker City. The son of a hard working logger, his father moved the family to Bates, Oregon when he was three years old, and went to work for Edward Hines Lumber Co. He grew up in a small, company owned, mill town, where his father instilled in him a deep rooted work ethic that he would carry with him the rest of his life.

Growing up in Eastern Oregon, he learned to love the outdoors and things all boys growing up there love….hunting, fishing and shooting squirrels were a natural part of life in a small mill town. When hunting with his dad, if he started complaining about the long hike, his father would tell him, “you’re the only one that will get you back to the truck!” His father taught him discipline and self-reliance that would later serve him well.

He spent his school years living a half a mile from the saw mill. He didn’t realize it then, but saw dust found its way into his veins. He took the bus 45 minutes to Prairie City High School each day where in addition to being a good student, he was a 3 sport Varsity Athlete, and worked at the mill in the summers while going to school.

After high school he attended the University of Oregon, with his summers spent working in the woods at Edward Hines as a timber faller, and on the fire crew. His old Stihl Chainsaw still hangs in his garage today, as a reminder of where he came from. Those were his roots, and they were deep.

Originally he had plans to become a doctor, but after a rough term, that probably included a little too much social life, he adjusted his goals to focus on dentistry… but in the end, he was happy to graduate in 1973 with a degree in Business and Marketing instead.

His time at the U of O was not wasted, because in addition to his degree, he left with a beautiful bride who is still by his side today… the mother of his three boys. His boys were all named after places in eastern Oregon that he loved and calls home… Jordan Valley, Mitchell Oregon and Grant County. He was taught to live your life so that that you are never afraid to go back to where you came from.

After college he got a job selling shakes and shingles, which led him to International Paper and eventually in 1977 to his present company. He was hired by one of our past Lumbermen of the Year, who mentored him and saw in him the qualities he knew would make him successful.

He started as assistant mill sales manager, and could always outwork anyone, so he steadily moved up through the organization. Wholesale Sales representative, General Sales Manager, Vice President, and eventually President and Chief Operating Officer.

And how did he accomplish all this? Well, for one thing, by working harder than everyone else. He is the first one in every morning, and the one who turns off the lights at night. But he does it all with energy, enthusiasm,` and a positive can do attitude that is contagious and helps empower those around him… He’s a leader that people want to follow.

Passionate about the lumber business and the company he represents, he is never satisfied with the status quo… there is always a better way, a new idea, another opportunity…he is an idea guy, but he also has the drive and determination to see those ideas through and make them become reality… he leads by example and his fingerprints can be found on each of the pieces of the business he has helped to grow and develop over the years.

As hard as he works, and as busy as he is, his door is always open, and he will always make time to listen to your ideas and challenges, usually while he lets his own wait. He knows that you don’t need a pat on the back when things are going great, but will be there for you with a pat on the back and encouragement when you are having a bad day.

I’m told occasionally he will also help you identify a “PGO”. A “PGO” is a personal growth opportunity… which basically means you screwed up, and you need to find a way to fix it.

A mentor to many, and a player-coach who is smart enough to know when to get out of the way… A leader who has the gift of facilitating…he knows how to help others reach their full potential.

He is passionate about his family, his company and the great outdoors. Those who know him best describe him as fiercely loyal, generous and understanding. A man who would do anything for his friends and family… always the first one there to help. He has a search and rescue mentality, that if you are stuck in the snow or your car needs a jump…he’ll be the first one there to roll up his sleeves and help.

There’s also the side that most don’t see…Quietly behind the scenes with an open wallet or a silent check, he has personally helped a long list of people who are forever grateful for his generosity. If he weren’t a CEO of a company he’d be Santa Clause. He loves children and is a strong financial supporter of Trillium Family Services, the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon Wildlife Foundation.

He works too much to be a good golfer, but his love of the outdoors has manifested itself in some recent land purchases in Eastern Oregon, and he has been teased about becoming a land baron… who buys barren land. He calls his ranch the Rock Pile, and his wife calls it the money pit… but it’s the place he loves to go to hunt and fish and get back to his roots. He has lived his life, with integrity and honor and the basic solid values he has passed on to others…like his father taught him, he has lived his life so that he can always go home.

In addition to the contributions made to his company and his community, he has also served our industry with his vision and leadership as a past Chairman of NAWLA, The Western Wood Products Association, the Wood Products Promotion Council and the Timber Products Inspection Board of Advisors…

This Year’s Lumberman of the Year has worked in the forest products industry for over 4o years and as hard as I tried to dig up some good dirt on him, I couldn’t find anyone who had a bad thing to say about him He hasn’t burned any bridges and is respected and admired by all who have had a chance to work with him, even though they couldn’t keep up.

Back in 1977 Gordon King made one of his best decisions when he decided to hire him to work at Hampton Lumber. That was the beginning of a great relationship and friendship that helped turn a good company into a great one.

He’s one of those people that everyone is proud to know, and this year we are proud to call… Mr. Mike Phillips … our PWLA Lumberman of the Year!