Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:00 PM
Courtesy Sierra Pacific Industries
Workers build the platform for the presidential inauguration in front of the U.S. Capitol using wood from California-based Sierra Pacific Industries. The planks were fashioned at two mills in Washington state.
West Coast farm products play role in inauguration events
By TIM HEARDEN
ANDERSON, Calif. -- For over a decade, officials at Sierra Pacific Industries had no idea that their lumber had been used to build the platforms for the last three presidential inaugurations.
But an employee was vacationing in Washington, D.C., last month and looked toward the U.S. Capitol. There, he saw stacks of wood planks clearly marked with the SPI logo.
The company's lumber had been requested by a contractor building the platform for President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Jan. 21, said Mark Pawlicki, Sierra Pacific's spokesman.
Company officials soon learned that SPI's lumber had been used for each inauguration since then-President George W. Bush's first in 2001.
"It was just a normal business transaction, but for a special purpose," said Pawlicki, explaining that the planks were sent to East Coast wholesaler Middle Atlantic Wholesale Lumber Inc., from which they were acquired for the project.
"This platform requires long, structural framing lumber, and we're a large producer of that type of lumber from our mills in Washington state," he said.
Sierra Pacific's mills in Burlington and Aberdeen, Wash., fashioned the planks, which represent about 200,000 board-feet of lumber -- enough to build about 13 homes, Pawlicki said.
The project includes select Douglas Fir lumber sheets measuring 12 inches wide by 16 feet long. Mills have to be engineered during their design phase to process every foot of length, Curt Adcock, the Burlington mill's division manager, told the Skagit Valley Herald.
"It makes you feel proud," he told the newspaper. "You see that company logo up there -- they're buying exclusively from Sierra Pacific. It makes you feel good about what you're doing."
The platform will be more than 10,000 square feet -- the same size as that used for the 2005 inauguration, which was the largest ever built, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies' website.
Pawlicki said he did not know the price that Sierra Pacific received for the wood, adding it was likely part of a larger order that went East for various projects.
"We don't normally know where it goes after we sell it to the wholesaler," he said.
The West Coast wood is among many American agricultural products the inaugural committee is using for the event. Another is California champagne from the Guerneville, Calif.-based Korbel Champagne Cellars, which will be served with dessert at the inaugural luncheon following the swearing-in ceremony.
Korbel's champagne has been served at the last eight inaugurals, beginning with President Ronald Reagan's second in 1985, said Margie Healy, the company's vice president of communications. The winery recently celebrated its 130th anniversary in Sonoma County, she said.
"I think it's only fitting that Korbel would be a part of such a historic and memorable event," Healy said. "That luncheon has been held since 1897, and Korbel has been around since 1882. There's lots of history with the luncheon and with Korbel. I think it makes for a good pair, and it's very fitting.
"It's something we as a winery and as a company and all our employees are very proud of," she said. "We're excited to be a part of this distinguished event."
Sierra Pacific Industries: http://www.spi-ind.com/
Korbel Champagne Cellars: http://www.korbel.com/default.aspx
Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies: http://www.inaugural.senate.gov/