A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A new plant in Millersburg; issue is access

Written May 6th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Jared Revay of Timberlab talks at Monday’s open house at Millersburg City Hall. About 30 or 40 people crowded the council chamber to hear about the project.

Millersburg hopes to gain a new industry in a promising type of construction, and it needs Linn County’s approval of an access road across agricultural land.

Timberlab, based in Portland, makes cross-laminated timbers for use in building so-called mass-timber structures, such as the new terminal at Portland International Airport. The company wants to manufacture these components in a factory it plans to build on part of 75 acres of industrially zoned land owned by Millersburg and within the city limits.

The land is west of the old Oregon Electric railroad track and south of Conser Road. To reach it from Conser, the company needs access across a corner of farm land outside the city limits.

Linn County will have public hearings on this so-called “goal exception” from Oregon land use laws, on June 11 by the county planning commission and later by the board of commissioners.

The company held an open house Monday night at Millersburg City Hall.

The company hopes to begin construction this fall and be in production by the start of 2027. The plant would employ about 35 people to start and perhaps more than 100 a decade from now.

Why can’t the plant gain access across the railroad tracks? City Manager Kevin Kreitman said the railroad will not allow it. The line is owned by BNSF and operated by Portland & Western.

Timberlab’s plan shows a railroad spur to serve the plant. Being on a suitable rail line was an important point in selecting the site, according to Jared Revay, the Timberlab representative who did most of the talking.

The access road is just east of the big filbert orchard at the center of last year’s controversy when Millersburg proposed an urban growth boundary swap. This would have allowed the Italian paper maker Sofidel to convert the orchard into an industrial site, but it was rejected in a 2-1 vote of the Linn County Board of Commissioners last March.

Millersburg at the time made a move to get the land swap approved at the state level instead, but apparently that failed, Kreitman told me after the Timberlab open  house that the urban growth boundary swap idea was dead and no longer being pursued.

I had reported on the UGB and Sofidel issue last year, which is why I was interested in this new and different proposal. If this story seems a little short on details, maybe the photos below will shed some light. (hh)

The reddish area is where Timberlab wants to build, with access from Conser via the yellow driveway.


This display shows the planned timeline for the Timberlab project.


The drawing shows the plant in relation to the adjacent railroad track, with a rail link serving the plant.

7 responses to “A new plant in Millersburg; issue is access”

  1. Nate Conroy says:

    I wonder how much of the company’s interest in the location also has to do with its proximity to the Mass Timber Tech Hub at Oregon State: https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/pacific-northwest%E2%80%99s-semiconductor-and-sustainable-timber-industries-be-strengthened-two-oregon

    I got to attend an event a few weeks ago where a growing Corvallis lumber software company discussed its connection to the mass timber industry: https://www.microtec.us/

    • Scott Bruslind says:

      Thanks Nate for the link, and let’s not forget our own Mass Lam innovators up in the canyon. The PDX airport project, mentioned at the top, has Freres Engineered Wood components. Be good to reach out to Nicole Steen for comment.
      And, looking into Timberlab, they are a subsidiary of Swinerton, a national general contractor. Very smart to vertically integrate and get the products built to spec.
      Here’s to hoping they’ll use Bakelite resins, extending the pipeline (under the UP tracks) that serves Duraflake (Arauco), north just a smidge.

  2. Gothic Albany says:

    Why not just build it on the old paper mill site? The elephant in the room, which is well known by now, is that it will never ever never ever never be a productive short haul container transload site.

    • Coffee says:

      Hear, Hear, Gothic Albany!!! You are correct. The elephant in the room is the old paper mill site which likely will never, ever, ever, ever be an operating container off-load facility. But, the commissioners in a county run the county. That is the way county government is set up, and they have not given up on that off-loading business.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      If our gutless, liberal govt. would step in and stop the Longshoreman Union’s stranglehold on Port traffic, there would be containers to load.

  3. TM says:

    Why is it that the most obvious choice for this project being the old papermill
    Site somehow becomes the least likely choice when government entities
    get involved?


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