Established in 1854 as a transportation hub, Cowlitz County has long been a powerhouse for the state’s lumber, milling, and paper production industries, with the majority of its economy today still resting on wood-products processing and other related manufacturing industries. Much of Cowlitz County’s growth is due to the development of Longview, and where its county seat is located in neighboring Kelso, both of which were built around lumberman R.A. Long’s thriving milling business in the 1920s. In an effort to anticipate the influx of workers as the mill began production, Long carefully developed the city of Longview through zoning of residential and industrial areas, helping establish infrastructure, buildings, and schools to satisfy the needs of the incoming workers and their families. While the Great Depression led to the demise of Long’s company, the milling industry still remains active, with many of its workers still residing in Longview.
While paper manufacturing industries remain central to Cowlitz County’s economy, the county is experiencing growth in the service and retail industries and has benefited greatly from the implementation of a new grain terminal and steel pipe plant.