By Lindsay R. Mohlere
Ever since his dad passed him the reins to R & R King Logging Inc., Bob King’s main concern has been getting the next job.
Upon graduating from Oregon State University with a business degree in 1967, Bob went right to work in the woods with his father. Soon after, Bob was gladly handed the business duties of the company because his father enjoyed operating a log loader more than attending to management responsibilities. At that point, the company began to expand, moving to Florence, Oregon, and buying the logging operations of Erskine Lumber Company. With this new opportunity, the company went from one yarder side to three.
Knocked Down and Back Up
About the time Bob’s dad retired in 1980, the recession of the 80s landed and rattled the logging business to the core. “We logged for Davidson Industries then,” Bob says. “The recession shut us down for a year, but we were able to make our interest payments and stay afloat. A lot of loggers lost their equipment. At the end of the year, another company from outside the valley…Swanson Brother’s out of Noti…came around. It was the first time we had logged outside the Florence/Mapleton area since moving to the area.”
Since then, Bob has carved out a diversified organization by utilizing his business skills, professionalism, and his ability to adapt to the challenges of the industry. The company holdings include King Land & Cattle, King Family LLC (tree farms/rentals), Crown Alaska Inc., and R & R King Logging Inc.
Looking down the road, King sees the company thriving throughout the next ten years and beyond. “We have a great succession plan. We know we have grandkids coming along. We feel like we will be one of the last companies standing because a lot of people are getting out of the logging business. With our succession plan, knowledge, and experience, we’ll be here for the long haul.”
Today, Bob’s daughter, Jennifer, and son-in-law, Dan Waggoner, are full partners in the company. “I’ll probably be logging until I can’t do it anymore,” Bob says. “The kids have taken over a lot. My job is less and less. I still bid the jobs, but Danny gives me a lot of the input.”
The Unique Challenges of Business
The evolution of a business that originally started out more than a 100 years ago logging with horses and developed into a fully mechanized outfit employing over 75 people is a story of dedication and attention to detail.
“To be successful in the logging business today,” King says, “You’ve got to be a good businessman. It’s more than just getting the timber. It’s controlling costs.”
Equipment cost and financing, payroll, and health insurance, workers’ compensation, and liability are but a few costs factored into the bidding process for any company to be successful. In some cases, there’s no profit. “Sometimes you just take jobs to keep your men busy,” he says.
Like many other logging companies, King’s workload is determined by winning bids on timber sales.
“Anytime you bid a job, you can be the bridesmaid and come in second. Kind of the way it is today, we bid a lot of jobs, but you don’t always get them,” he says.
R & R King has been logging for Roseburg Forest Products and Seneca Jones Timber Company for several years; however, Bob is outspoken when it comes to the current bidding system. “About 95 percent of the work we do is on a bid basis. Today the mills require you to have state-of-the-art equipment. The big problem is they require you to have the equipment, but you’re never guaranteed a contract to make sure it gets paid for… It’s a lot of pressure on you. My number one conversation with the mills is that they need to give us long-term contracts so we know we can finance a five-year program on a piece of equipment without losing a lot of sleep.”
The Alaska Experience
Waggoner, a Linfield University graduate and sixth generation logger, serves as vice president of the company and is responsible for the day-to-day operation.
When the company took on the challenge of expanding to Alaska in 2009 to log for Sealaska, a native corporation, Dan and Jennifer (who holds an MBA from Oregon State University) spearheaded the move and ran the Alaska business until 2014.
“You’re at the mercy of the ocean and the weather. You have to have backup for backup,” Dan says.
The expansion also meant immediate growth for the company. Crown Alaska Inc. employed 100 people in Alaska, and R & R King Inc. employed 100 people in Oregon.
“Alaska was a great experience and a good money maker. But it was very difficult being so spread out,” Bob says. “When it ended, Sealaska was almost out of wood, and we had one more year left. They wanted us to come back up, but we said ‘No,’ so we came home. It was a big relief to have everything back here. Since then, we’ve downsized to 75.”
The incredible experience of introducing long-span skyline logging to Alaska and overcoming the many near-impossible obstacles of logging in the wilderness has given the company a new sense of direction.
“Alaska opened our eyes to what was possible,” Jennifer Waggoner says. “We gained a lot of confidence.”
Continuity Is the Key
Assisted by side-rod Matt Simmons, Dan keeps the wheels turning on the six tower sides and two ground-based sides currently operating in Oregon.
Like most logging outfits, employee retention is an important factor. At R & R King, the longevity of the crew reflects the company’s commitment to keeping its workforce happy and productive. While many employees have been with the company 10 to 20 years, Dan says they are always searching for that “right” guy to fill out the ranks.
“We invest in the lives of our employees,” Dan says. “My biggest challenge is keeping the jobs going. I have the responsibility of keeping the guys working.”
The company offers a good family wage, 401k, major medical for employees, sick leave, and a bonus program. In addition, the company’s comprehensive safety regime includes CPR training and first aid.
To date, R & R King does its own hauling utilizing ten Kenworth log trucks. To keep up with their normal production, King also contracts with Ireland Trucking of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, which can run up to 20 trucks a day for King.
The company’s main equipment roster features Link-Belt and includes six 290 and three 350 log loaders with three spares in reserve. They also have a new Link-Belt 240 with a Pierce Delimber. Two of the 290s are outfitted with Waratah 623 processors, and one other 290 with a Waratah 622. All towers are Thunderbirds utilizing Boman skycars.
“Everything is pretty much the same on each side. A lot of the guys move from job site to job site but they find the same log loader, same processor, same Boman, the same yarder. Continuity is the key,” Dan says.
Because We Care
The company’s lasting commitment to the industry and the environment was rewarded last year when R & R King Logging earned the 2015 Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southern Oregon Area Operator of the Year award for protecting the streamside buffer along Little Paradise Creek, a large fish-bearing stream with salmon, steelhead, and trout. Jennifer Waggoner was also named Associated Oregon Logger’s Woman of the Year, an award her mother, Kay King, received several years earlier.
“We like the idea of being a representative of the industry where high quality and our reputation is at stake,” King says. “We consider it our job to educate the public and to lobby for the timber industry.”
“We care about the land. We work here. We play here. It’s our livelihood. We want to protect it. It might be an old-time saying, but it’s true. Why would we want to come in and damage the land that we live and play in? We pride ourselves on complying with the Oregon Forest Practices Act and going above and beyond, because we care.”
On the Cover
Photo of this Link-Belt was taken by Lindsay R. Mohlere at the Henderson logging operation, based in Wallowa, Oregon.
Multi-Tasking Makes the Difference
Henderson Logging, continually adapting to an ever-changing industry
Small is Big Again
Two small mills that specialize in sustainability and provide opportunities for the next generation
Steep Slope Logging Conference
Show guide of the 2017 Steep Slope Logging Conference held in Kelso, Washington, April 19-21
Rocky Britt takes on the many challenges of building a successful logging operation
Keeping it in the Family
R&R King Logging looks ahead to a bright future with a great succession plan
Gearing up for the season
2017 OLC Pictorial Review
Highlights of the 79th Annual Oregon Logging Conference