ISLAND CITY — A major Union County employer is set to expand its local workforce substantially.

Woodgrain Lumber & Composites has announced it will be adding 35 positions at its particleboard plant in Island City over the next six months. This will boost the number of employees Woodgrain has at the plant to about 153, an increase of almost 30%.

“We are excited to continue to invest in our particleboard facility, as well as our local community. This is also an opportunity to expand in the markets we serve,” said Tracy Hayes, the human resources manager for Woodgrain’s Lumber and Composites Division.

Woodgrain also employs 90 people at its lumber mill in La Grande, bringing the total number of people on its Union County payroll, counting administrative staff, to 218.

Applications for the positions are now being taken and hiring will begin soon. The 35 new employees will be added in phases through March 2022, Hayes said.

Woodgrain is expanding its staff at the Island City plant because home construction is increasing in the West, which is creating a growing demand for particleboard products needed for homes, including furniture and cabinets, Hayes said.

The particleboard the Island City plant produces is tailor made for specific uses such as airport jet bridges and tables for table tennis.

The particleboard plant in Island City was built in 1966 and was owned by Boise Cascade throughout its history before it was acquired by Woodgrain in 2018. Woodgrain also acquired Boise Cascade’s La Grande lumber mill at the same time.

Tom Lovlien, vice president of Woodgrain’s Lumber and Composites Division, said he is optimistic and excited about this hiring initiative.

“It is an exciting time to be a part of Woodgrain,” Lovlien said in a press release. “Our company has continued to invest in its facilities here in Northeast Oregon, and our leadership has complete confidence that the particleboard team will meet this new demand, while maintaining both customer and employee satisfaction. This is a place people want to be and we want them here.”

Hiring for the particleboard plant positions will be conducted for entry level and supervisory positions. No manufacturing experience is needed for the entry level positions, for Woodgrain will provide all the training needed. Wages for entry level positions will start at $18.31 an hour.

“All of our positions provide long-term family-wage careers,” Hayes said.

Island City Mayor Dave Comfort said Woodgrain’s announcement is most welcome.

“I think it is great news, not only for Island City but for Union County in general,” he said. “I know of people who will benefit from this expansion.”

The mayor said there is some concern about how McAlister Road in Island City will hold up under the heavier traffic load it will shoulder as the 35 employees are added. Comfort said he will work to make sure steps are taken to keep McAlister Road strong enough to handle the added traffic volume.

Suzzanah Moore-Hemann, executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, is also encouraged by Woodgrain’s announcement.

“We are always very excited when any of our local businesses are able to broaden their workforce and provide good family-wage jobs that continue to add vitality and vibrancy to our community,” Moore-Hemann said.

Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage echoed this sentiment.

“This will be a big boast for Northeast Oregon,” she said. “An expansion like this is exciting.”

Woodgrain, with corporate offices in Fruitland, Idaho, is a family-owned company founded 65 years ago. Island City and La Grande are among more than 20 cities it has plants and centers in throughout the United States, including Pilot Rock, where Woodgrain also owns a sawmill.

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General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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