January WPA Meeting Roundup

WPA Meeting Roundup

By Chaille Brindley

A large group of pallet and lumber industry members gathered in Palm Desert, California for the annual Western Pallet Association meeting. Literally, one of the hot topics at the meeting was the current problems in California with suspicious pallet fires. Arson is suspected to be the cause in many instances. Commercial Lumber & Pallet (CLP) was recently a victim, and Kathleen Dietrich, the WPA president, spoke about her experience at CLP. She said that the situation could have been much worse. But fire safety procedures and a rapid response from the fire department made all of the difference.

None of CLP’s buildings were damaged in the incident. One of the reasons is that CLP has started putting stacks of lumber between stacks of pallets. This forms a fire break of sorts because lumber takes longer to get going than pallets do. Also, the company has created significant spacing between pallet stacks and structures.

A security guard spotted the arsonist and quickly called fire authorities to respond. Lighting around the perimeter, security cameras and security guards are all steps that companies in California are taking after a rash of suspicious fires over the last few years.

Other problems facing pallet companies in California are recent incidents of fraudulent orders and thieves steeling trailers full of pallets. In a few cases, security guards were overpowered and tied up because the assailants had fire arms. Security has become a major consideration for many pallet companies in California.

Another issue being discussed at the meeting was the impact of rising softwood lumber
prices. The main driver is speculation over what will happen if duties are placed on Canadian lumber sometime later this year. Several panelists agreed that the market seems to be trending upward. Other lumber brokers said in private that the big gains may have already happened until anything new breaks with the softwood lumber dispute or increases in Asian purchases. The general thought is that prices are likely to go up depending on what happens with duties.

Canadian and some U.S. industry leaders have raised concerns with U.S. officials about how previous NAFTA exempted categories could disrupt markets that are not central to the softwood dispute. Now, everyone is in a waiting game to see what will happen. U.S. officials could decide to exclude pallet kits, stringers and other previously NAFTA exempted items. If companies have the ability to do so, they may want to consider building some extra inventory to be able to withstand whatever the outcome is on Canadian duties, which could range anywhere from 20-50%.

Patrick Atagi of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) spoke on efforts by the associations to fight corrugated pallet initiatives aimed at wooden pallets. Specifically, he pointed to success in beating a bill in Oregon aimed at giving preferential purchase authority to corrugated pallets for state procurement. The bill was sold to legislators as good for the environment, especially climate change mitigation.
You can see the latest video from Blue Ox Pallet at https://goo.gl/KetZRk.

Atagi’s primary goal was to encourage the industry to realize its power if everyone works together. He also highlighted some of the ways to use new materials from the Nature’s Packaging initiative. If you haven’t checked out the website, you need to do it and download the logos and messaging to use in your marketing. You can find more at www.naturespackaging.com.

Ashley Delgado, a lobbyist working with the NWPCA on behalf of pallet and lumber issues, spoke on the latest developments in Washington as the Trump administration prepares to take office. Her basic premise is that we should expect the unexpected with Trump. Some key positions have yet to be nominated, especially the Secretary of Agriculture who will oversee the Forest Service, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and other key forest related agencies.

Key areas that will impact the pallet and lumber industries are Obamacare repeal, tax reform, and regulatory roll backs. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow at the CATO Institute, covered the economics of minimum wage laws. He suggested that Trump is a wildcard on minimum wage even though his pick to head up the Department of Labor (Andrew Puzder) has been very solid on the issue. Trump has been all over the map on the issue from supporting a $10 per hour federal minimum wage, to no change at all to allowing the states to decide. As Mitchell commented, the states are driving the issue now. Look for continued pressure on the local level for higher wages even if the federal government does nothing.

I spoke at the convention on Moments of Change, looking at key decisions that made success possible for a number of pallet and lumber companies. The key take away is that labor challenges are continuing. You need to get good people and resource them. Smart companies also need to look at automation and machinery to reduce the labor burden. While building and moving plans are necessary in many cases, you need to expect that it will cost 10-25% more than at first expected.
And finally James Ruder of L&R Pallet and Ryan Sterns of Atlas Pallets in Nampa, Idaho shared on how they have used innovative human resources approaches to handle labor challenges. Ruder has turned to Burmese refugees to help solve his labor problem. And he has developed a whole new approach to managing his people. You can read more online at https://goo.gl/SytyaZ.
The WPA meeting continues to be a great place to network, share ideas and hear from top speakers. Due to its smaller size and the WPA’s reputation for friendliness, the WPA meeting is a desirable place to come during the winter if you want to meet other pallet people.

Congressional Fly-In Receives Rave Reviews

NWPCA’s Congressional Fly-In this June received an extrememly positive response from those who participated in Washington DC, including a number of WPA members.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience,” stated Kathleen Dietrich,Operations Manager of Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company and Current President of the Western Pallet Association.

“I believe the collaboration with NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) really gave us an opportunity, with appointments to meet with those legislators specific to our districts and states. It was all very informative and the lobbyists from NAM really were prepared. It made for such a fun and knowledge gaining experience. The evening at the Capitol Hill Club, where we actually met congressman and senators from different states, was such an intimate setting and you really got to literally ‘hand shake” with the legislators directly, and hear their viewpoints on those matters important to our industry.”

“It was a very eye opening experience to see a small glimpse into how Capitol Hill works,” added Caroline Beach Skinner, WPA Past-President. “NAM put together a great program and  they were very accommodating to our schedules. Meeting with different senators, representatives and their staff and listening to them speak about their viewpoints gave us great insight to the struggles that go on in Capitol Hill.” She added that it was great to participate in having the industry’s concerns being heard by lawmakers, and that she found a new found appreciation for what people like Patrick Atagi and others do on a day-to-day basis.


WPA Director Jeff Carr of Northwest Hardwoods was also enthusiastic about his experience in Washington DC. “The Fly-In was excellent as well as surprising,” he said.

“NAM and NWPCA organized the event very well. I was surprised at how many congress persons that I had access to and how much time I had with them for my own company’s concerns. We will happily attend next year’s event if the opportunity presents itself, likely with a couple company representatives, if possible.

“The NWPCA Congressional Fly-In was a great success, and the impact of having our West Coast members participate and discuss issues important to the industry was significant,” stated Patrick Atagi, Vice President of NWPCA. “It shows that our industry has depth and that it spans the entire country.”

Atagi added that many positive measurable outcomes come from these meetings. For example, Jacqueline “Jackie” Garduno from The Pallet Center Inc. was able to meet with the office of Congresswoman Torres (California 35th) and secure a commitment for a Congressional Mill tour at The Pallet Center Inc. in Riverside, California.

Mill tours not only educate Members of Congress first-hand on the issues facing the wooden pallet industry and small businesses, but help companies show they are a positive part of the community providing jobs and contributing to the local economy.

All in all, the Fly-In received high praise as a successful event.

Part of Our Story

In 1962, Ray Gutierrez started his first year of work at Commercial Lumber Company and was hired as a yard worker pictured in the upper left corner. Now, he is our President-CEO. The collage of these pictures were all taken in 1962 and all of these employees transferred with us to City of Industry when the pallet company began in 1975.

We wanted to share these interesting pictures to display the rich history and hard work behind CLC Pallets.

Industry Thought Leaders Share Keys to a Trust-Centered Culture

Company executives like to say they have strong corporate cultures, but does that translate into higher performance? As it turns out, yes, but only if executives say what they mean, and mean what they say.

A study by researchers from MIT, Northwestern and University of Chicago found that a firm’s performance is stronger when top managers are perceived as trustworthy and ethical. Employee perception matters because it’s easy for companies to say they have strong values, but not necessarily to follow through.

“The [trust-centered] culture is also reinforced with daily safety checks and constant back-and-forth communication between employees and management.”

-Kathleen Dietrich
Vice President & Operations Manager
Commercial Lumber & Pallet Company

You can read the entire publication HERE.

Industry Thought Leaders

Share What’s on Their Mind, Whats on Their Desk.

The wooden packaging industry is a dynamic, evolving, and ever-changing network of businesses and business models. The only constant is change. Whenever NWPCA staff travels to visit members, they always return with interesting stories on how people originally got into the pallet business, what they do outside the pallet industry and, what they expect for business through end of 2016.

Ray Gutierrez, President/CEO, Commercial Lumber & Pallet

How are general business conditions? What do you expect through year-end?
Generally Speaking, I feel that this year will be very similar to last year, which would be great. Presently, I am anticipating upward pressure on pricing though, as lumber mills in the Pacific Northwest continue to struggle for logs.

How did you get started in the pallet business?
Commercial Lumber was established in 1941 and was heavily involved in heavy engineering and industrial grade lumber. When Governor Pat Brown came into office, he didn’t see the need for this type of infrastructure in the State of California at the time. Before things came to a significant halt, and much research was needed in the alternate industries involving wood, we decided to get involved in the pallet business. We completed that expansion in 1974, and changed our name to Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company.

What is on your desk right now? Operations? Expansion plans? Customer concerns? Opportunities?
Knudsen Cottage Cheese, Road and Track Magazine, sawmill lumber offerings and my current in-house Rail Car Report.

What do you do when you’re not at work? If you weren’t in the pallet business, what would you be doing?
I work from home. And if I wasn’t in the pallet business, I would be looking for a job!

You can read the entire publication HERE.

Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company backs responsible procurement

Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company backs responsible procurement with their recent 5 year renewal audit for SFI Certified Sourcing.

City of Industry, California

As part of its broad commitment to the corporate social responsibility, Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company announced today it will meet Sustainable Forestry Initiative© (SFI) lumber sourcing requirements across its City of Industry and Beaumont location.

The SFI certified sourcing label tells consumers at least two-thirds of Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company’s lumber comes from a company certified to the procurement requirements of the SFI 2015-2020 Standard, a third party certified forest and/or from pre- or post-consumer recycled sources. There is also a risk assessment of any raw material from outside of North America to avoid controversial sources such as illegal logging operations.

“We know our customers care about how forests are managed”, stated Ray Gutierrez, President-CEO of Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company. “SFI certified sourcing tells them our products are made with fiber from responsible sources—and our procurement practices are third party audited”. “With SFI certified sourcing, Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company, and our customers, can show we support improved forestry practices and strong communities across North America.”

Through its certified sourcing, the independent, non-profit SFI program stands apart from other certification programs by addressing the fact that 90 percent of the world’s forests are not certified. An SFI certified sourcing label tells consumers that lumber in a product is from legal and responsible sources, regardless of whether the forest is certified.

“By achieving SFI Fiber Sourcing requirements, Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company joins more than 245 companies that meet the mandatory practice requirements for the responsible procurement of all fiber sourced directly from the forest, whether the forest is certified or not. Among other requirements, SFI Fiber Sourcing includes measures to broaden biodiversity, use Best Management Practices to protect water quality, invest in forest-related research and conduct landowner outreach.” Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc.

Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company was established in 1941. They manufacture and recycle new and used wooden pallets. They have two locations, City of Industry and Beaumont California.

About SFI

SFI Inc. is an independent 501c (3) nonprofit charitable organization, and is solely responsible for maintaining, overseeing and improving the internationally recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative. (SFI) Program. (www.sfiprogram.org). Across North America, more the 195 million acres are certified to the SFI forest management standard, making it the largest single forest standard in the world. SFI chain-of-custody certification tells buyers the percentage of lumber from certified forests, certified sourcing, and/or post-consumer recycled content. The SFI program’s unique lumber sourcing requirements promote responsible forest management on all suppliers’ lands. SFI Inc. is governed by a three chamber board of directors representing environmental, social and economic sectors equallty.

Environmental Benefits of Wood-Use for Pallets

Get the facts, share the facts with your customers on the environmental benefits of using wood:

  • According to the U.S. Forest Service, there were 119 percent more hardwood trees in 2007 than in 1953, with the growth-to-removal ratio of 2.00 (two new trees for every one removed). Want more good news? Each year 1.7 billion trees are planted in the United States – more than five trees for every man, woman and child in America – an average of 4.8 million seedlings each day. (From the U.S. Forest Service.)
  • U.S. industry harvests just 42% of the annual growth in hardwood timber that is biologically available to harvest. This is like using 42% of the interest/dividends you receive on your investments in any given year, without touching the principal. In fact, every year more trees die and rot in the woods than are removed by the industry.
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Welcome to Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company

Commercial Lumber & Pallet Company is a California-based pallet manufacturer that offers competitively priced new, refurbished and custom designed pallets, shipping crates and storage crates, industrial lumber, and pallet recycling. We are your one-source provider for pallets and crating. Established in 1941, we are one of the oldest and largest Lumber Mills and Pallet Manufacturers on the West Coast.

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Forecasts & Wishes

Ray Gutierrez, President – CEO
Commercial Lumber and Pallet Company, Inc.
City of Industry, California

We are looking upon 2015 to have many challenges and opportunities. The challenges, in our estimate, will continue to be the sourcing of raw material, the acquisition of good dependable labor, and the rising costs of insurance, energy and overall maintenance expenses. Facing these challenges indicates that we are anticipating growth in 2015 and how we plan to address that growth, thus the opportunities.

To read the entire letter from President-CEO Ray Gutierrez click here