Lumberperson of the Year

2022 Lumberperson of the Year Joe Honochick

Joe Honochick

This year’s award recipient is a person who has always had a dream and a goal and a plan for how to make it a reality; stubborn enough to never give up and always willing to do the hard work required to see his dreams come true.

A native Oregonian, born in Eugene, he grew up on a small cattle ranch in the heart of the Willamette Valley. He learned responsibility at a young age, feeding and caring for the animals, along with the daily chores that are part of life on a ranch. A solid work ethic grew strong in him and would always serve him well.

At the age of seven, his innate drive and desire to achieve his goals started to reveal itself. One day he announced to his father that he wanted to buy his own steer. His father chuckled, but then realized he was serious when he was able to articulate his plan to go to the bank to borrow money for a steer. His father explained that he’d need to wear a sport coat and tie to meet with the banker, but when it was time to leave for the meeting he was wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a button down shirt. His dad asked why he wasn’t wearing a sport coat, and he explained that he wanted the banker to know that he was for real!

He got his steer, and it was just the first of the many challenges he would face in his life with the same spirit, drive and determination to achieve his goals.

By the time he was 13, he had purchased several more head of cattle and his father decided to turn his cattle business over to him. One of the men he bought cattle from was a local lumber baron, the owner of Davidson Industries

His father worked in pharmaceutical sales and was friends with several of the timber barons in the Eugene area. They took a liking to this sharp young teenager and saw something special in him. They offered to let him tag along as they spent their days in the sawmill, log yard, and out in the woods cruising timber. They took him under their wings and that’s where his love for the lumber industry began. He would regularly spend his free days with them in the sawmills. Taking in the sights, sounds and smell of lumber being manufactured. That’s where a dream took root in his heart and mind…a dream of one day running a sawmill.

These lumbermen shared their knowledge and wisdom with him. An important influence in his life; they became mentors to him. He learned how sawmills worked, but perhaps more important, he observed the respect with which they treated their employees. He learned to care about people, the importance of relationships, and to look for the good inside of everyone.

He grew up as a middle child, with younger and older brothers. Often it became his role to be the compromiser and peace maker in the family…skills that would serve him well throughout his career.

His career in the wood products industry began in Highschool. In the summer of 1976, between his Junior and Senior year, he started to work framing houses for a builder in Eugene Oregon. He was smart enough to get into the Honors Program which allowed him to take his core classes in the mornings and work framing houses in the afternoons. He was not afraid of hard work. He was also smart enough to find the love of his life. His high school sweetheart who he has now been with for the last 44 years. I’m not sure if he found her or if she found him, but she says “he checked all the boxes”.

A man of integrity and high moral values. Kind, handsome and an all around good guy… And besides that he can fix anything…and if he doesn’t know how to fix something he’ll figure it out. Sounds like he was a pretty good catch.

Working for a builder during high school got him interested in design and construction. So, when he started at the University of Oregon, he majored in Architecture. He soon figured out that sitting at a drafting board was not for him, he was a workaholic who couldn’t sit still and always needed to be doing something, so he switched and got his business degree instead. He continued to work his way through college building houses.

Coming out of school after the recession of the early 80’s, jobs were not that easy to find. But he had personality and drive and found work in 1983 helping to build and run a new remanufacturing plant in Eugene, OR called McKenzie Trading. From there he moved on to Pacific Rim Manufacturing in Jasper, Oregon. He was hired as the Swing Shift Manager but was soon promoted to plant Manager. Early steppingstones leading him to his future.

In 1987 he moved onto his first job with a sawmill when he took a job as the Planerman at Oregon Cedar Products. It didn’t take long until his talents were recognized, and he was promoted into a sales position helping Oregon Cedar Products transition away from solely Western Red Cedar and into Douglas-Fir production as well. He had a knack for listening to his customers, understanding their needs and creating lasting relationships that he has been able to build on throughout his career.

By 1995 the effects of Spotted Owl Legislation on old growth timber harvesting shut down sawmills throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon Cedar Products.

Resilient and determined, our lumberman went to work for a well respected timber family in Eugene that owned Pennington Crossarm Co. where he handled sales and oversaw the reman operation. This same family owned an Old Growth sawmill across town in Eugene, another victim of the spotted owl, that sat idle for almost 2 years. An opportunity came along, but he had to choose between the security of a good job at Pennington or taking the chance at bringing an old sawmill back from the dead. He jumped at the chance and felt his dream come back to life.

In June of 1997 he began working full-time as the Sales manager at the mill. It was about the same time the supply of old growth logs was coming to an end. During the previous several months he had reconnected with his former customers from his sales days at Oregon Cedar Products and they were now buying products from him. #1& Better Douglas Fir Timbers was the product in most demand and it was clear this was the most likely path going forward. He had a vision towards the future. Within months he had totally rebuilt the mill’s customer base from 80% export to 95% domestic products. Through his hard work, tireless efforts, and great customer relationships he transformed the mill into a reliable supplier of high quality #1 better fohc Douglas fir timbers.

A man of honor and integrity, he had nurtured and protected his relationships with his customers over the years, and in return their trust and loyalty to him allowed his company to succeed and grow during this transition.

In 1999, he was promoted to General Manager and his dream of running a sawmill became reality. His new responsibilities started when the logs were delivered to the Sawmill and ended once the lumber was delivered to the customer.

Under his leadership the sawmill flourished as demand out stripped production. Through continued improvements in equipment and personnel, plus his unrelenting push towards excellence throughout the manufacturing process and customer relationships, the production today is double what it was when he took over. Even as General Manager, he’s somehow figured out how to juggle all his responsibilities and keep all the balls in the air.

And he’s even made time to serve on the Grade and Standards committee of the PLIB; he’s been a member of the PWLA and Hoo-Hoo for over 30 years and served as Chairman of the 2019 Nawla Traders Market. Not to mention coaching his daughters and serving his community in countless other ways…

He is a good leader who his employees trust and are happy to follow. He holds himself to the highest standards, but also has high expectations for his employees. He will hold you accountable, but he is always there to help you succeed. He encourages advancement and knows the person pulling green chain is just as important as the shift supervisor. They are all part of the same team, and all need to succeed together.

He's kind of an outdoorsy guy who does occasionally get to spend some personal time hunting and is apparently pretty good at it. There are a few Elk above his fireplace to prove it, but his granddaughter hates them because they stare at her. He and his wife also volunteer personal time to mentor employees who are facing challenges in their own lives. Anyone who ever needs help, or gets in trouble, knows they can come to him, and he will help them navigate through the challenges they face. They respect his input; they trust his sincerity and they know he cares about them.

Every Thanksgiving he is humbled by the calls he gets from those who work for him, thanking him for the opportunities he and the sawmill have provided them. Grateful for what they have, able to raise their families and proud to work for a company that cares about them.

And so, his dreams and goals have come full circle… working hard for everything he’s accomplished and grateful to all who have helped him… earning the respect of all he encountered along the way; and giving back to those who need his help… a reflection of all that is good about our industry. He has lived his life with integrity, honor, basic solid values, and a work ethic to be admired.

For the last 27 years he has worked for Zip-o-Log Mills, and today he is the General Manager.

We are proud to call Mr. Joe Honochick this years Lumberman of the Year!

Congratulations Joe!