Freres Engineered Wood celebrates 100th anniversary

By Regence
August 12, 2022
Freres plywood

Regence honored to be longtime partner

When it comes to major anniversaries, the 100-year milestone is one that not every Oregon business will achieve. Family-owned and operated Freres Engineered Wood celebrated its 100th anniversary this July. Freres, based in Lyons, Ore., harvests and manufactures high-quality wood products.

And, for the better part of the company’s life, Regence has been proud to support the health of Freres’ employees and their families. We honor the company’s 100th year by celebrating its milestones and helping it prepare for what’s next.

Innovating from the beginning

Freres began modestly in 1922. Founder T.G. Freres purchased a sawmill on the north fork of the Santiam River and began producing lumber for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

In the 1930s, Freres provided lumber to replace the original plank roads in Newport, Ore., that later became part of Highway 101. The 1940s brought a partnership with the Frank Lumber Co., and expansion with the addition of new facilities in Lyons. By the end of the decade, all sawmill operations were relocated to Lyons.

Freres bought Frank Lumber’s share of the company in the 1950s and incorporated as Freres Lumber Co., Inc. Next, the company joined forces with Willamette Valley Lumber Co., to create a new veneer manufacturing plant. As demand surged in the 1960s, Freres added its own veneer plant to its growing business.

A sustainability champion in the wood products industry

Since then, Freres has entered the global market, advanced innovations in engineered wood products and undertaken some highly ambitious environmental sustainability initiatives. One effort converted Freres’ energy usage to biopower cogeneration – producing enough energy to power their operations and an additional 5,000 households. This achievement earned them Oregon’s 2008 Milestone Sustainability Award.

Freres’ six production facilities and three business units have grown to employ nearly 500 people throughout the Santiam Canyon. In the past decade, the company has focused on developing mass plywood panels (MPP) for commercial construction. The versatility, strength and sustainability of MPP make it an ideal alternative to steel and concrete that’s shaping the future of commercial mid- and high-rise construction.

And in 2020, when unprecedented wildfires burned more than a million acres of Oregon timberland, Freres salvaged timber killed in the Santiam Canyon and replanted more than 3 million seedlings. Many of the salvaged trees were used in constructing a new roof at Portland International Airport.

A commitment to community

“The humble beginnings of one man’s dream to start a small sawmill has evolved over the past 100 years into a booming modern business,” says Rob Freres, President of Freres and grandson of the company’s founder. “Today, we’re an innovative leader in the mass timber industry, committed to leading sustainability practices and supporting our community.”

Freres is celebrating its centennial in the communities it serves through philanthropy, employee celebrations and industry events. At 100 years old, it remains dedicated to its core values of innovation, protecting and supporting healthy forests, hard work and resiliency and giving back to its community. One example is Freres’ donation of mass ply laminated beams and columns used in rebuilding the Detroit, Ore. Community Center and City Hall after the wildfires.

A lasting partnership with common roots

Like Freres, Regence also sprang from humble beginnings in the Pacific Northwest timber industry. Just a few years after we began insuring the health of Oregonians in 1941, we began serving Freres Lumber Co. It’s a partnership that has endured for more than seven decades. We’re honored to support the health of Freres employees and their families as they embark on their second century in business.

Please join us in congratulating Freres on its 100th anniversary!