OMAK — Due to poor lumber prices and low demand, Colville Indian Precision Pine in Omak expects to shut down operations in December. About 130 employees will be laid off indefinitely, a company official said Thursday.
The lumber mill joins Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer — also a Colville Tribal Enterprise Corp. venture — which closed in January, idling about 230 workers.
“We would love to find a way not to have to do this, but unfortunately, it’s one of those situations that is dictated by the downturn in the economy,” said Randy Williams, chief executive officer.
Williams said the two mills represented a sizable portion of CTEC’s 1,000 employees. The corporation is owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
He said the company expects it will take about six weeks to mill the remaining logs in its yard before all operations are shut down.
The loss in jobs will affect the whole region’s economy, he said.
He said the mill only was able to stay open this year with financial support from the Colville Tribes.
He said it’s too difficult for the tribe to continue to support a losing venture.
Williams said even if the national economy is beginning to rebound, it will take a long time before new construction comes back.
“With the housing market, they’ve got so much inventory, it’s going to take a while for them to really get back into new construction. Until then, the timber industry is going to feel the effects of the lack of new housing and construction,” he said.
Williams said he’s disappointed that federal politicians have not stepped up to help support the timber industry, as they have supported the auto industry and others.
He said the timber industry is clearly one of the hardest hit in this recession. “It’s unfortunate that Washington, D.C., doesn’t see the same impact for timber,” he said. “We face an uphill battle with the people in Washington who don’t understand the overall impact to an industry very dependent on housing starts and new construction,” he said.
While its mills are closed, CTEC may try to retool and modernize its facilities, Williams said.
“It’s a difficult time to have to do it, but it certainly does present us with an opportunity,” he said of the closed mills. “Maybe the next time we have this economic downturn, as long as we’re able to create a modern work environment, maybe we won’t have the same issues the next time.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512