By Kristi Granberg
Isaiah Shaw has a vision. It’s a combination of his life-long love of working in the woods and his passion for helping employ fellow veterans. At a youthful 29 years old, it would be easy to be skeptical of his idea, but it only takes seconds to see his enthusiasm.
Isaiah Shaw is co-owner and operator of Shaw Bro’s Logging and Land Clearing, out of Yamhill, Oregon. Though this version of the company started in 2017, Shaw’s Grandpa Ralph was a logger who started the original Shaw Bro’s Logging with his Great Uncle George and Uncle Randy.
Grandpa Ralph retired in 2000 and in 2017, Isaiah and his wife, Micha, decided to bring the company back to life. “I went to work for Larry Heesacker at A-1 Logging when I got out of the Army, for about a year. My wife was eight months pregnant when I got laid off, and I was in a total panic. I said to Larry, ‘I’m going to start my own company.’ Larry’s response was, ‘You can do all my little jobs I don’t want to do.’”
Today, “Uncle Larry” lives up the road from Shaw and his family, and about 40 percent of the work the company does is referred by Heesacker.
“He helped me get started, lining me up with little jobs. We bought an old wore out track hoe from him, and we logged with that and an old D6 and just grew into what we are now.”
John Deere Fan
Like his grandpa, Shaw is a John Deere fan and is quick to point out the features of his newest equipment addition, a JD2156G.
“It’s just a door in the back, instead of having a guy climbing up a ladder and having mud on his boots, and slipping and falling and breaking their elbow on a track. It’s a lot safer, and it’s a lot more comfortable, and it’s easier on your body to get in and out of it. You could fit three people in that cab.”
The JD2156G helped with a recent stream restoration project. “They were able to stand right behind the seat and tell me exactly where they wanted the logs to go, instead of being on the ground trying to point and doing radios. It sped the project up.”
Although Shaw loves to log, he takes on a diverse array of jobs.
“I’d say we log six months out of the year. All of July and August, we usually do stream restoration, and then the rest of our time is spent on land clearing, road building. We do house dig-outs, ponds, rock walls,” says Shaw, and because they have a bucket truck, they do tree service work as well.
“I try to be involved in everything I can possibly do. If it was just logging, we would not have new equipment.”
His dangle head is two years old and has just 850 hours on it. “Most guys put 2,500 hours a year on a machine. We try to specialize in these really small jobs. We started out buying a bunch of old stuff. By the time we had our down time and all the maintenance that was required, we just were going backwards. We decided we’re going to buy new equipment. I tried to get financing through a couple different companies, and Papé was the only one that was really willing to step up and help us out.”
Shaw’s wife, Micha, handles most of the administrative side of things, in addition to taking care of their two girls, Avery, 5, and Natalie, 3.
“My wife is the only reason that we are financially able to do what we do,” comments Shaw. “She spends a lot of time analyzing, making sure our costs are controlled. I just see something, and I want it. I don’t look at the numbers.”
He’s only half-joking when he says, “I’m not allowed to know how much money we have in the bank, which is a good thing because I’d spend it.”
On his wish list is a JD859 with Southstar grapple saw, which would allow him to get into areas that aren’t easily accessible.
Micha also helps out in other ways, including running the equipment. She makes sure the guys take time out for lunch and will even bring them something to eat, which is all part of keeping the crew happy and healthy.
“I have a lot of accountability for them,” says Shaw. “My grandpa was always like that. His guys were the most important thing. He always told me, ‘You’re not your company. Your guys are your company.’”
Since his grandfather passed away, Shaw has tried to apply everything that his grandfather taught him. “That’s really important to me to honor his legacy. It’s not about how much money you make. It’s enjoying what you do.”
Attracting and Keeping Talent
Shaw believes in cross training. While working for A-1, he looked for opportunities to share his knowledge of running equipment. If a chaser had a free moment, Shaw would offer to teach him how to run the equipment, starting with greasing the machine. “I’d show him how to sharpen and put on a chain. I’d take a cutting card and say, ‘Okay, this is the length. You hold onto this.’” Shaw says training employees on the equipment is important for a number of reasons. “I was thinking what if I’m sick? What if I get hurt or that machine rolls over, this guy is the closest one to me. Does he know what lever to pull? Does he know how to turn it on? With all the new technology that’s coming out, I see a lot of the manual labor jobs going away.” He says the mechanization is going to put hand fallers and jumper setters out of work. “We need to adapt to the changes. We need to start taking those guys and training them to be in a machine”.
Cross training is important to his current operation as well. Crew members, Cody Walgraeve, and Colton Befus can run all the equipment. “I make sure they rotate every other day. That way, if one gets hurt, another can still run that. It’s like a small training program right here with big equipment. Shasta Community College in California has a program where they teach guys how to log, and West Coast Heavy Equipment Training in Washington. That’s missing in Oregon. My generation grew up just sitting there, playing Xbox. This is attractive to guys that like computers and video games. I’ll have carpal tunnel before long.”
How do veterans play into his vision? Shaw uses their techniques and sees them as a potential piece of the workforce. “I try to integrate military technique into what we do. In the military, we had to PMCS all of our equipment, before we got on and when we got off of it, following a checklist.”
Shaw had the opportunity to get an engineering certificate through the National Guard, which meant that his employer had a certified road builder. Shaw says some vets have commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), and almost all of the equipment that’s used in the military is John Deere or Caterpillar, which means that vets have been trained to work on them. In addition, vets are Combat Lifesaver Certified, and employers receive a tax break for hiring vets, which Shaw would like to see put back into the employee, in the way of additional training, counseling, additional paid time off, etc.
“I’d like to, eventually, if we grow big enough, have a full military side and just hire vets, because what [could be] a better environment. You’re out in the woods. There’s no hustle and bustle. You’re in your own element.”
In the near future, Shaw hopes to, start a 501(c)) to make the veteran program happen.
In the meantime Shaw Bro’s will continue doing diverse, high-quality jobs.
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