Increased demand for wood products means more profits for Boise Cascade Holdings and more jobs in the Rogue Valley.

Increased demand for wood products means more profits for Boise Cascade Holdings and more jobs in the Rogue Valley.

The Boise, Idaho-based company reported net income in the third quarter of $23.5 million on sales of $764.6 million, a healthy boost from a loss of $3.7 million on sales of $628 million in the same quarter a year ago.

Accompanying the sales increase is a sizable increase in hiring by the company, which expects by year-end to have added about 250 workers in 2012 to its Western Oregon division.

Boise Cascade employs nearly 700 people in the division, which includes a plywood plant in Medford, engineered wood products and veneer mills in White City and a mill in Willamina.

That's up from about 500 at the beginning of the year.

Boise Cascade spokesman R.J. Roberts said the vast majority of the new hires have been in Jackson County.

Roberts said the firm continues to hire workers for its Medford plywood plant, where it is running at capacity, and hopes to fill two shifts at the company's White City plywood mill on Antelope Road.

The company began ramping up hiring last winter and has continued bringing in new workers.

"We're hiring people as fast as we can," Roberts said.

To fill the shifts in White City, the company expects to hire another 50 to 60 employees.

Boise shuttered the plant in March of 2010, laying off 110 workers, and when it reopens, the operation will be streamlined.

"It won't be a stand-alone operation as it was before," Roberts said. "It will be part of our Medford plywood operation."

The new hires will be trained at the Medford plant and the jobs in White City will first be made available based on seniority, which could allow a night-shift worker in Medford to move into a day-shift slot in White City.

"After the seniority bidding, whatever jobs are left over will go to the new people," Roberts said.

Not only does profitability mean more jobs at Boise Cascade, it could mean bonuses for its present staff. Boise ended its defined benefits pension system a year ago and is replacing it with a bonus plan, based on the company's performance. Through the first nine months of the year, Boise has earned $40.2 million, sparking talk of year-end bonuses.

"Everyone is thinking about bonuses right now," Roberts said. "They're excited."

Boise Cascade has benefited from a positive turn in housing starts. During the third quarter, the U.S. saw a 28 percent gain over housing activity in the third quarter of 2011.

Still, housing starts remain significantly below the historical average of approximately 1.3 million units per year during the past decade. The Blue Chip consensus forecast for U.S. housing starts for 2012 was 760,000 as of Oct. 10. The final U.S. housing starts level reported for 2011 was 609,000.

Boise said its wood-products units produced $259.8 million in third-quarter sales, up 33 percent from a similar period a year ago. The company said it benefited from higher plywood volumes and prices and increased engineered wood-products shipments, although engineered wood-products sales slipped in September.

While many areas of the country are seeing a housing bounceback, commodity wood product prices could be volatile in coming months. As a result, Boise said some of its plants may operate below capacity.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email