From Mills to Ultramarathons, Jared Richardson Keeps Things Running

Jared and our Wood Products team members visit a harvest site in Coram, Montana. From left, Zack Miller, Montana raw material manager; Shauna Dunn, panels safety liaison; Chad Allen; EWP capital Director; Jared; and Ethan Mahrt, Kalispell Safety Manager.

The list gets lengthy when Jared Richardson names the customers he and his Montana & Eastern Raw Materials team serve.

Of course, it includes seven Wood Products mills in their region, which stretches from Montana to North Carolina, as his team of 32 people manages logs and by-products to keep these mills running optimally.

“Our mills are customers, but our suppliers are customers, too,” Jared says. “We spend a lot of time demonstrating to third-party log sellers and timberlands owners that we’re a great business partner vested in their short- and long-term success.”

Image of Jared Richardson taking the seat of a new cut-to-length harvester during a site visit in Grayling, Michigan.

Jared takes the seat of a new cut-to-length harvester during a site visit with log suppliers to our OSB plant in Grayling, Michigan. Jon Rashleigh, vice president of raw materials, can be seen taking the photo in the reflection behind Jared.

Then there are the logging contractors hired by Jared’s team to harvest third-party timberlands. And local and state government officials. And trade associations. Not to mention our neighbors, who expect us to be responsible, engaged citizens and stewards of the land.

“We have a lot of constituents to keep in mind,” Jared says. “It’s not always easy to balance these competing priorities while keeping the mills supplied with the materials they need to keep running.”

Jared also keeps himself running — literally. He’s an ultramarathoner, regularly competing in races longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon.

“My wife Elizabeth is a runner and got me into it about 10 years ago,” he says. “The first year was frankly an awful experience. Running three miles was hard, and five was a huge accomplishment. But I kept at it and went farther and farther. I came to realize you learn a lot about yourself on long runs, and it’s very much a mental battle.”

Image of the Richardson family at Quinn's Hot Springs in Montana.

The Richardson family takes a selfie at Quinn’s Hot Springs in Montana. From left: Arlo, Elizabeth, Colette, Jared and Ambrose.


Your title is Montana and Eastern Region raw materials manager. Tell us more about what you do.

I lead our raw material teams at seven manufacturing facilities: Kalispell plywood, Kalispell lumber and Columbia Falls MDF in Montana; Grayling OSB in Michigan; Buckhannon EWP and Sutton OSB in West Virginia; and Elkin OSB in North Carolina. My teams are responsible for securing logs and fiber for producing medium-density fiberboard, oriented strand board, lumber, plywood and engineered wood products —everything we make. It’s a big responsibility. Without raw materials, our mills can’t run. My teams also manage the flow of by-products, such as sawdust, chips and other residuals, out of the mills.

My job requires a little bit of everything, from negotiating and planning to keeping records for Sustainable Forestry Initiative® compliance audits. I’m supported by a great team of people who bring their A-game to work every day. I see a key part of my role as reducing some of the pressure on my team by bringing efficiency through improved systems, processes, people development and standardization.

What led you to choose this job?

I have a bachelor’s in forestry, natural resource management from the University of Montana. After school, I started as a land management forester, left to work as a logger for a time, then moved into forestry consulting for over a decade. The consulting work improved my communications and negotiations skills and gave me insight into the dynamics of suppliers and manufacturers. Later, I was hired as a log buyer for Plum Creek. My first day was the day of the merger with Weyerhaeuser, which was a little nerve-wracking at first! But everything turned out great in the end.

Image of Jared Richardson and his wife, Elizabeth, during an overnight run in Glacier National Park.

During an overnight run in Glacier National Park, Jared and his wife Elizabeth take a break on top of Swiftcurrent Mountain.

Tell us what your day is like.

I’m on the road one to two weeks a month. I meet with my teams at each mill and their internal and external customers. When I’m not traveling, I often spend time in meetings, ensuring that my team, mill managers and Wood Products leadership are focused on common goals. A big focus recently has been standardizing forms, contracts and systems as much as possible between locations to improve our overall efficiency.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

There’s so much variety: My teams deal with tree species ranging from southern yellow pine to northern hardwoods to western conifers, and disparate climates with heavy winter snowfall to humid southern summers. And yet there’s a universal consistency among the people and the passion they bring to their jobs. There’s an inner fire to do good in and outside of work, a deep connection to land and community, and a profound sense of pride for what we do and how we do it. It’s a great business to be a part of.

Image of Jared Richardson pausing below the Trilobite Peak during a 50-plus mile run in Montana.

Jared pauses below Trilobite Peak during a 50+ mile run across the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.

Tell us something about your job that might surprise people.

That the manufacturing operations my teams support get anywhere from zero to 10 percent of their raw materials from our own timberlands. Our mills in the Montana and the East region aren’t located near Weyerhaeuser timberlands. When purchasing third-party wood, we either buy logs by the ton delivered to our mills, or we buy standing timber and we’re responsible for harvest and delivery. In all cases, our wood is certified to SFI’s Fiber Sourcing Standard. This means we audit and educate suppliers on forestry best management practices to protect water quality, ensure sustainability and more.

You must have some challenges. What are they?

In order to avoid costly and inefficient last-minute changes, we build plans around seasonal variability and recognize the constraints on our mills and suppliers. Logging contractors are challenged to find skilled labor such as machine operators and log truck drivers — and at the same time, they have to manage through harsh weather and seasonality. We have to balance that changing environment with mill production and markets. Doing all this requires nurturing strong relationships with log suppliers, having a solid plan and continually challenging business as usual.

When you were young, what did you want to do?

As a teenager I built a cedar strip canoe, which spurred an interest in building and woodworking and made me think I might want to be a carpenter or build wooden boats. I still enjoy woodworking, but I found my real calling between high school and college, when I took a year off and was working on state lands building ski trails. I ended up talking to a state forester, and I was fascinated by his job and the idea of being outside all day and without having to deal with people — at least, that’s what I envisioned it was like at the time. Reality turned out to be a little different!

Image of Elizabeth and Jared Richardson.

Elizabeth and Jared. Elizabeth is training for a marathon and a triathlon, and Jared regularly runs ultramarathons.

Tell us about your other interests. What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Woodworking and home renovations. I also snowmobile and ski in the winter and mountain bike and raft in the summer. We try to be outside and keep our family moving. After Elizabeth got me into running, I started doing ultramarathons in 2017 — she’s currently training for a marathon and a triathlon. Now, I run 50-kilometer races regularly, and have a 100-kilometer race on the horizon. One of my favorites is an informal “fun” run across the Bob Marshall Wilderness here in Montana. The route varies each year but is 50 to 60 miles, entirely self-supported, and takes 12 to18 hours to complete. You climb mountains, cross rivers, hope you don’t run into a grizzly bear and are deep into some wild country. It’s spectacular.