2019 Lumberman of the Year

Craig Johnston

This year’s Lumberman of the Year likes to think of himself as an average guy who was lucky enough to be blessed with a chance to work in this industry.

A native Oregonian whose father was a forester, he grew up in the great outdoors learning to ski and to love all the things Oregon has to offer. His father taught him how to fly fish, and fly fishing taught him many important life lessons… success in fly fishing, and in life, involves patience, a lot of old-fashioned hard work, and never losing sight of your goal. Lessons he learned well and would eventually apply in his own career.

He grew up in a small family with one brother, but the two of them would compete at everything as brothers often do, and his competitive sprit grew strong. By the time he went to Rex Putnam High school, sports became the outlet for his need to compete. He played football, basketball and baseball, and in his spare time he would ski, golf and fish… and then in the time he had left he used to do his homework. He was the smartest “C” average student in his class; not because he wasn’t an intelligent kid, he was just driven, and wanted to do everything.

After high school, he attended junior college to get his grades up so he could apply to the University of Oregon. There he decided to just focus on football and his grades and was successful in both areas. He played Quarterback, where he excelled as a natural leader and team builder who would go on apply those skills in every aspect of his life.

He got into the University of Oregon and majored in business, like a lot of people did who weren’t really sure what they wanted to do. He worked his way through school pulling green chain at the Emerald Forest Products plywood mill in Eugene. The saw dust was not very thick in his veins, so he came to appreciate his college education. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a Degree in Business Administration, destined to forever be a loyal Duck fan.

As fate would have it, a college buddy of his had a father who ran the trading floor at a local wholesale forest products company and got him an interview. He was genuine, unpretentious and a likeable, confident, young man that people trusted. So, he took his business degree, and his plywood mill experience and talked his way into a job that opened the door to his future.

At 22 years of age, he was given a desk, the Red Book and a phone… and in 1981 our Lumberman of the Year started his career in the lumber industry as a trader trainee at American International Forest products.

Fly fishing had taught him patience, to work hard, and to never lose sight of his goal; and his competitive nature and determination would drive him to succeed. He applied those lessons as he continued to listen and learn from those who would share and mentor him.

As he worked his way up through the ranks, he wasn’t always sure where the path would lead, but he always had the confidence that he’d find his way…A laid back guy, who was sincere and unassuming, gregarious and a natural relationship builder, he had a knack for building strong teams and creating lasting relationships that he has been able to build on throughout his career.

By 1986 he became manager of the Canadian Products Group; in 1993 Executive Vice President of American International, where he eventually became President in 1998.

He’s usually the smartest guy in the room, but he’s unassuming and prefers to fly under the radar… instead he chooses to empower those around him and helps them find a solution on their own… …he’ll never tell you exactly what to do, but you know exactly what he wants, because he’s made his vision clear.

He’s a leader that people want to follow because they like the direction he wants to go. Passionate about the lumber business and the companies he represents; he is driven and never satisfied with the status quo… there is always a better way, a new idea, another opportunity…he is a big picture idea guy, but he also has the drive and determination to see those ideas through and surround himself with talented people that help 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.

Once a young trainee, now a mentor to all, and a leader who is smart enough to know when to get out of the way… He has the gift of facilitating and knows how to help others reach their full potential; his roots are long and deep in the company.

In 2004, our Lumberman of the Year helped lead in the creation of a successful Employee Stock Ownership Plan, resulting in the employee purchase of Forest City Trading Group, which he has led since 2006 as it has grown into one of the largest diversified Forest Product companies in North America.

His unique ability to articulate the vision and communicate the opportunity available made it possible for diverse companies with strong competitors, to come together and share best practices, to help each other without sacrificing their independence or entrepreneurial spirit.

The company has continued to thrive under his leadership, as he shared his vision for “a team that is more like a big family all driven to find opportunities and all working together to seize them”.

Grateful for the opportunity he was blessed with, he has not forgotten his roots and gives back to the company and the community with kindness and generosity. He encourages the hiring and mentoring of young traders like he once was, training them and then turning them loose; reinvigorating and recapitalizing the company by allowing others to invest in the future.

He is grateful for all the success he’s been part of and encourages a culture of giving back to the community; not just by writing a check, but by donating time and energy as well, to help and give back to those less fortunate.

Leading by example he and his wife are strong supporters of the Oregon Food bank, Habitat for Humanity, Youth Education programs and the Oregon Wildlife Foundation.

While he may think of himself as just an average guy, who learned a few things fly fishing and was blessed with an opportunity.

He’s an average guy who had the vision, integrity, generosity and determination to make his company, his community and our industry a much better place.

He’s an average guy who became a great leader, leading people to do great things…

And we are proud to call Craig Johnston, President and CEO of Forest City Trading,
the 2019 Lumberman of the year!