Dick Baldwin Knows Plywood
Story by Rich Donnell,
Shown here is Dr. Richard F. Baldwin, better known as Dick, during the recent Panel & Engineered Lumber International Conference & Expo (PELICE) held in Atlanta. PELICE organizers presented Dick with a Lifetime Service Award. Not that he’s going anywhere. He’s currently executive vice president/general manager for the Southeastern U.S. division of Wood Resources LLC, and has overseen a couple of success stories at the company’s plywood plants in Moncure, NC and Chester, SC.
As the award indicates, Dick has devoted his life to the wood products industry, and more specifically to the plywood industry. He followed his dad into the Cascade Plywood mill in 1957 in Lebanon, Oregon as a tape machine off-bearer. Through the years he laid core, rustled stock, supervised production personnel, was a general superintendent, an operations manager and I first met him when he was vice president for Champion International’s southern pine operations. Later on he became (and still is) managing partner of Oak Creek Investments and at one time had operating authority over wood products plants in Latin America and Southeast Asia, and started up several mill ventures around the world, and I could go. As recently as 2010 he gained his Ph.D. in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas, with a dissertation on Timber Industry-Based Communities in Crisis: Leadership Collaboration and Response—Research Findings from Seven Western Oregon Counties. He is also a certified forester.
Dick has authored six books on manufacturing practices, management and forestry issues, with three of the books specifically about plywood manufacturing. He is in the middle of writing number seven, due out later this year.
Dick didn’t just stand around receiving awards at PELICE. During one of the breakout sessions he spoke on The Changing World of the Plywood Producer: Products, People, and Processes. His bottom line message was that plywood companies must more closely align their business model with the emerging realities of the industry.
What I found most interesting was when he addressed solutions for survival and growth. One of his five focal points was to “trace back to the roots of the plywood industry and seek understanding. Consider the rich history of men, machines and markets,” he said, mentioning several names of “industry giants gone from the scene.”
Certainly Dick Baldwin is one of those giants, and he is certainly not “gone from the scene.” In a sense he was the younger brother during that era of giants, and thus today, at age 73, is in the unique position of being able to speak for them as he speaks to us about the past and the future of the industry.