Stewardship and sustainability in a growing industry

For almost 200 years, the forest industry has played a central role in Washington’s economy. In the early days, the virgin forests that covered the state helped fuel Western expansion and turned small logging camps into flourishing communities. Today, the forest products sector is the third largest manufacturing industry in Washington, creating jobs and opportunities for companies and investors.

In an age where sustainability and stewardship are as important as yield, the state has led the way in reinventing the industry. From developing innovative worker’s compensation programs for loggers and sawmill workers at the turn of the 20th century to creating the world’s first tree farms, treating trees as an agricultural crop instead of a limited natural resource.

Despite many challenges faced over the years, the industry’s ability to innovate, modernize and diversify provides adequate proof that this major player in Washington’s economic past will continue to play a significant role in its future.

Diversity and growth

Washington State’s forest products sector covers a broad range of business lines, from traditional cutting and lumber production to chips, sawdust, wood flooring, shingles, tiles, millwork, laminated veneer and fencing. The industry also encompasses pulp and paper and value-added products such as doors, window frames and stairs, offering companies a wide range of opportunities for expansion and growth.

About half of Washington is forested. In the Western part of the state, 75% of the trees are less than a century old and about half are less than 40 years old, considered the optimal harvest age. In 2014, more than 3.2 billion board feet of trees were harvested from private, federal and state lands, mostly Douglas-fir and western hemlock, accounting for 13% of total U.S. softwood lumber production and 7% of all plywood production in the United States. Private forest lands in Washington account for two-thirds of the state’s timber harvest.

With an eye on sustainability and stewardship, Washington’s 1,700+ forest products businesses employ some 42,000 workers, earning nearly $3 billion in wages annually. More than 10% of forestry-related jobs are “green” compared to about 3% for the state’s workforce as a whole. Gross business income is approximately $28 billion annually.

The future of forest products

With advances in growth strategies and timber management practices, per acre yields are predicted to continue to climb in the years to come, ensuring a steady supply of forest products for the industry.

Advances in construction, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), combined with the understanding that wood-based materials produce less air and water pollution, generate lower CO2 emissions and require less energy to produce than other materials, will continue to fuel industry growth for the foreseeable future.

The age-old use of biomass to power saw and paper mills is having a spillover effect as processes are modernized and optimized for use on a broader scale in communities throughout Washington. New enterprises and new innovations continue to find uses for the entire tree, from milled lumber to biofuels.

In fact, the University of Washington and Washington State University are conducting research on how forest products can be used to power the nation’s airliners. This cutting-edge research has drawn interest from the Department of Defense, Boeing and Alaska Airlines, which conducted test flights using this new generation of forest-driven fuels.

For Washington State companies, the forest products industry offers new opportunities as a centuries-old state industry meets the challenges of the future, not only in the areas of sustainable, responsible stewardship of private and public lands, but the use of forest products in new ways to meet growing worldwide demand for premium Washington State forest products.

We’re a cut above the others!

Whether you’re planning to take the world by storm with a new line of wood furnishings or investing in next-generation CLT products, Washington State is the ideal choice.

Our culture of creativity, legacy of responsible stewardship balanced by industry growth, pro-business environment – including no personal or corporate taxes – stunning landscape of old growth timbers and rich biodiversity, offers you excellent opportunities for growth, expansion and investment.

To learn more about our forest products sector, give us a call at (206) 256-6100. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help your business achieve success in Washington.

Sector Strategy

Sector Resources


Brian Hatfield
Forest Products Sector Lead & Rural Economic Development Advisor
Phone: 360-819-2936