By Sydney Vrban
Although his degree in education might suggest a different career path, Mick McLaughlin found his passion in the family logging business. It felt like coming home. After graduating from Boise State University, he seamlessly transitioned to working for his father at McLaughlin Logging. Mick began full-time in 1975 until eventually assuming the role of company president.
“Back then I just wanted to be around my father,” Mick says. “He and I were pretty tight. Today I’m responsible for setting up all the jobs, and I also do all the internal roads for our timber sales. Whenever someone gets a bit behind or needs some help, I try to jump in.”
Sixty years after first opening their doors, McLaughlin Logging is still a family affair. Mick’s mother, Marguerite; his wife, Mary Anne; their son, Bruce; his son-in-law, Austin Waters, and Mick’s brother-in-law, Robbie Clift, are all actively involved in the family logging business.
Today, McLaughlin Logging, based in Orofino, Idaho, contracts primarily through PotlatchDeltic, a leading timberland owner and top-10 lumber producer in the United States. Each year Mick and his crew use their fleet of forestry equipment, including three Doosan log loaders and a DX225LC-5 excavator purchased from Cascade Trader, to harvest multiple loads of mainly white fir, red fir, cedar, and spruce trees.
Once the wood is harvested, operators use a Doosan DX300LL-5 log loader with a Keto head processing attachment to delimb the trees and cut the logs to the length specified by their purchasing mill. This can vary from 16 feet to 49 feet, depending on the mill’s specifications and the types of lumber.
Scaling New Landscapes
Operating primarily out of Clearwater County near Orofino, McLaughlin Logging harvests approximately 20 loads of timber daily for PotlatchDeltic. Beyond traditional logging efforts, Mick’s company has adapted to harvesting timber on difficult-to-reach slopes. This decision has led to improved harvest volume and increased profits for McLaughlin Logging.
“Our steep-slope capabilities set us apart from other companies in the area,” Mick says. “We have a tether machine – a feller buncher – that allows us to safely navigate up and down steep hills to harvest in otherwise neglected areas. It’s a big advantage and has helped us get more volume for PotlatchDeltic.”
Steep-slope technology is still relatively new in North America, but it offers incredibly lucrative results for companies like McLaughlin Logging. “It’s added about six million feet to what we annually do,” Mick says. “Our volume is running around 20 million feet per year, so this has been great for improving what we can do as a company. We’ve always been big about staying on top of the newest innovations in the industry.”
Keeping Crew Members Happy
In a culture that glorifies college-focused career paths, it can be difficult for companies hiring for skilled trade jobs to attract and retain employees. To combat this problem, Mick relies on his company’s dedication to innovation within the logging industry. In the past 50 years, much of what was accomplished by hand in the logging industry is now achieved through mechanization and technology. Staying on top of these innovations is essential for McLaughlin Logging’s strategy to attract and retain crew members.
“We hardly have any employees on the ground anymore. Our company only runs a handsaw about 15 days out of the year,” Mick says. “We were one of the first companies in Clearwater County to buy a feller buncher. Since then we’ve continued to update our equipment and our technology. It helps us keep crew members sticking around. It adds efficiency to our process and helps us remain more profitable. This means we can afford to pay for things that help retain employees – like a fair wage and good benefits.”
In addition to its financial benefits, updated equipment technology also improves the overall safety of the company’s jobsites. This keeps worker compensation costs low and ensures that employees are satisfied with the equipment they operate on a daily basis.
“We try to ensure that our crews always have work,” he says. “Families need a year-round income, a retirement fund, and decent health insurance. With our people, we keep them working because they’re able to come into our shops in the off-season and maintain their equipment for the next year. I believe having this type of machinery has helped us when it comes to retaining employees, because they can see that there’s work to be done here.”
Another way Mick keeps his crews up and running is by partnering with local equipment dealerships such as their local Doosan dealer, Cascade Trader. The dealer recently opened a new location in Hayden, Idaho, to better serve its customers in eastern Washington and Idaho. Through this partnership, Mick eliminates unnecessary downtime, so he can keep his machines running, his crews busy, and his business profitable.
“Cascade Trader has been excellent to work with,” he says. “We consistently receive good service and always get our parts in a timely manner. Partnering with Cascade Trader has significantly reduced our downtime. I can’t remember ever losing a whole day of production because we were waiting on a part.”
After celebrating 60 years of success at McLaughlin Logging, Mick remains excited for the future of the logging industry.
“I believe the need for timber is going to remain,” Mick says. “Here in Idaho, we still have a really good timber base that should continue on for generations. Another asset to Idaho is the revenue received through the Idaho Department of Lands State Endowment Funds, which provides support to our schools, grades kindergarten through college.”
A firm believer in innovation, Mick McLaughlin stays on top of the latest developments in the industry through his involvement with Associated Logging Contractors (ALC).
“They collaborate on issues that truly affect logging professionals,” he says. “They have lobbyists who work to stop legislation that negatively impacts the Idaho logging industry. As a board member, I’ve been able to connect with the Idaho State Patrol and have a say on rules and policies that directly impact our company. The ALC is an important tool for staying informed and staying connected with others in the industry.”
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