Oregon Logging Conference
Keynote Speaker 2005

Keynote Speaker Gerald Palmer

Jerry Palmer is vice president of Caterpillar Inc., with administrative responsibility for the Wheel Loaders & Excavators Division.

He joined Caterpillar in 1963. After completing the company’s four-year manufacturing trainee program, he held various supervisory manufacturing and quality control positions at Caterpillar facilities in Illinois and Mexico before being named manufacturing manager of the Aurora plant in 1987.

In 1988, he was named managing director, CONEK S.A. de C.V., Caterpillar’s wholly owned subsidiary in Mexico.

In 1991, he became director of Technical Services, and in 1992 was elected a company vice president in charge of Caterpillar’s Technical Services Division. In that position, he was responsible for all research and development activities related to both product and process, as well as corporate functions concerning quality, manufacturing, and logistics.

In 1998, Palmer assumed his current position as vice president in charge of the company’s Wheel Loaders & Excavators Division headquartered in Aurora.

Palmer is a 1971 graduate of Northern Illinois University where he received a bachelor’s degree in production management. In 1975, he received an MBA from Bradley University. During this period, he also attended both the Caterpillar Manufacturing Training Program and the Caterpillar Manufacturing Management Plant Operations Training Program.

In 1992, he completed the Brookings Institute’s Understanding Federal Government Operations Program in Washington D.C.

Palmer is on the board of directors of P.T. Natra Raya, a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc. headquartered in Indonesia, and is vice chairman of the Tropical Forest Foundation. He is also on the board of directors of the Old Second Bancorp, Inc., Aurora University, Aurora Foundation, Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence, WaubonseeCommunity College Foundation, Provena Fitness, Provena Health, and United Way of the Aurora Area.


Chris West is Vice President of the American Forest Resource Council, a Portland, Oregon based trade association that represents over 80 forest product manufacturers and forest land owners in 13 western states. He has responsibility for government affairs, litigation and communications.

While the association has changed its name over the years, a result of several reorganizations and mergers, basically he has been doing the same job for the last 17 years. He cut his teeth on the industry’s efforts to salvage the Silver Fire of 1987, was caught in the middle of the listing of the spotted owl and then the Clinton Northwest Forest Plan. He was instrumental in President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative and the passage of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Most recently, he was part of the industry team that attempted to reach a settlement with environmentalists over the Biscuit Fire salvage. He is probably best known for his consistent quotes and sound bites in local, regional and national media outlets regarding issues important to the forest products industry.

Prior to joining the association, he worked for the Forest Service in Northern California doing timber management planning, sale prep and contract administration. He has also been a university and college level instructor, worked for private industry and a forestry consultant firm.
He is a second generation forester, who graduated in 1979 with a BS in Forestry and in 1981 with a Master of Forestry, both from the University of California, Berkeley. His Master’s thesis was a management plan for a Sierra Nevada watershed that integrated timber management with wildlife and fisheries research.

His family resides in Sherwood, Oregon and enjoys horseback riding, skiing, hiking, and camping. For over twenty years, he has been competing in muzzleloading and black powder shooting events, and is the current Oregon State Champion in Unlimited Bench Muzzleloading.

His remarks will focus on some of the lessons learned from the school of hard knocks during two decades of the Timber Wars. But more important, his eternal optimism provides him with a unique insight into the many opportunities before our industry and the communities in which we live and work.