Why Stimson Lumber mill matters.

By jhwygirl

In an upcoming post (or posts) I will have some thoughts on the Stimson Lumber mill situation. I’ll also have some thoughts on what I believe are the failures of the local Missoula media in reporting the issue. I felt a need to explain why it matters – and thus the following post.

(Note: Other posts on Stimson can be found here and here.)

Stimson Lumber has been on a long slow downhill path since at least 2005 – a steady stream of lay-offs, with excuses offered up by mill representatives that have been accepted de facto by the local media, without any apparent follow-up (or Journalism 101) questions. I see many unanswered questions, I see even more questions that haven’t even been asked, and I can’t understand how it isn’t getting done.

Stimson currently employs about 200 people now – it used to employ 500 after the take-over from Champion was complete. Since 2005 it’s laid off more than half of its original employ. It is still one of the larger, better employers in Missoula County, providing both a decent living wage along with benefits. Many a family in this community has relied on that mill for its livelihood – both directly and indirectly.

Employing that many people is a microcosm of an economy in and of itself – not only does Stimson directly employ its current 200 people here in Missoula, its wage earners support grocery and retail stores, gas and convenience stores, restaurants, mechanics, car dealerships, bakeries, doctors, dentists, loggers, truck drivers,…I think you know where I’m going. There’s a lot at stake.

I feel I am watching an institution die – of some unknown illness, with everyone standing by just letting it happen. Needlessly. Perhaps. As I said – there are statements that have been made and questions that have not been asked (yet alone answered) – and that is to come – but I ponder the illness, the mystery of Stimson’s current situation, wondering if we, the community, aren’t just sitting here letting it all happen.

I ponder this in balance with the Direct TV call center. In 2005 we had Max Baucus and the County Commissioners falling all over themselves for the right to build a $12 million dollar building and offer tax breaks to Direct TV for a call center that brought us $9.50/hour jobs (with benefits, of course </snark>) and yet I have yet to hear that anyone has knocked on Stimson’s door to ask if there is anything that can be done to help. Is there anything that can be done to keep those $15+/hour jobs here in the valley?

I never understood the Direct TV call center deal. This community had a lack of affordable housing as it was (and is), with a median income that is increasing further and further removed from the ability to purchase a market rate home – and yet elected officials not only got all lathered up to bring 800 – $9/hour jobs to town, but they did so at the expense of its own taxpayers by not only constructing the building, but by giving Direct TV tax incentives to get here. If both people in a household worked at that call center, full time, their combined income ($19,760 each, $39,250 combined) would not be enough to mortgage a home of median price – $209,000. The standard quick-and-easy way to calculate what an income can afford for a mortgage is to take the salary and multiply it by 3 – so a household made up of two Direct TV call center employees making that great taxpayer incentivized wage could afford a mortgage of approximately $119,000.

Tell me what you could buy in Missoula for $119,000?

So I ponder not only the illness of Stimson Lumber, but also the lack of any type of proactive mediation by the elected officials. I ponder what I believe is a failure by the Missoula media to bring to light the real truth behind what is looking to be the eventual shutdown of one of the largest employers in Missoula County.

Is it self-induced by corporate interests? Are we running out of timber (as Stimson alleges)? Is raw timber too expensive? Is Canada the problem?

Just some thoughts.

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  1. Interesting stuff. On one hand, I completely agree. On the other, I wonder how wise it is to rely on industries like lumber and mining. The DirectTV deal was a little shameful, and definitely not the type of industry we want to dominate the valley.

    IMHO, I think tech and alternative energy industries would do well here…

  2. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Canada? Well yeah! Take a boatride some time from Vancouver B.C. up to Alaska. You will see MORE logs than you ever thought possible! Stacked along the shores! Just waiting to be shipped! Montana will NEVER be able to compete with Canada. Just ain’t gonna happen. It’s a pipe dream. And the Canadians are NOT shy about cutting it. Oh sure, they try to re-plant as soon as they cut. But it ain’t the natural forest that grows back. Canada is blessed with bout a THOUSAND times more timber than Montana could ever produce.

  3. Matthew Koehler

    Hello jhwygirl,

    I thought you might be interested in this thread.

    Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 08:20:10 -0600
    To: pbackus@missoulian.com, john.vanstrydonck@lee.net, tyler.christensen@lee.net, Sherry.Devlin@lee.net, oped@missoulian.com, Michael.Moore@lee.net,
    From: Matthew Koehler
    Subject: Recent Stimson articles

    Hello,

    I couldn’t help but notice how recent articles about Stimson Lumber Co. that were in the Missoulian (Dec 2006 and Oct 2005 and pasted below) pinned the problems the company was facing on a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition. Yet the article in today’s paper appears to place the blame on the impending closure squarely (and solely) on lack of log supply.

    Yet, slumping lumber markets, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition have not improved for Stimson, so one might assume that they factors (which a few months ago were cited by Stimson as main problems) contributed greatly to the announced closure. The fact that the Stimson employees have qualified for NAFTA Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor certainly leads one to believe slumping lumber markets, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition are negatively affecting Stimson and others in the wood products industry. Tyler’s article from December provided a lot of good facts and stats to back this up.

    Why were these factors not explored – much less even mentioned – in today’s article? And if an industry is facing falling prices for their product and dwindling demand for their product just how does increasing supply of that product help out the company? My understanding of economics is that more supply when demand has cooled will just result in even lower prices.

    ————————-

    Stimson to cut 43 jobs at Bonner mill
    By TYLER CHRISTENSEN of the Missoulian
    12/15/06

    BONNER – With at least 15 years at the mill in Bonner, Russ Hickman has enough seniority to hang onto his job at Stimson Lumber Co. when the rest of his shift is laid off.

    That’s slight consolation for Hickman, who suspects the wood products industry is in permanent decline and it’s only a matter of time before the mill shuts down completely.

    “It could be the day after tomorrow or 30 years from now,” he said. “So there’s no comfort for the quote-unquote lucky people like me who got to keep their jobs.”

    Stimson’s vice president of manufacturing, Jeff Webber, confirmed Thursday that the company will cut some 43 jobs at the Bonner mill, effective Jan. 2. Those jobs represent two operating shifts, or about one-third of the mill’s production.

    The decision to scale back production came in response to the slumping lumber market and continued problems with timber availability, Webber said.

    Stimson has seen its margins squeezed flat by high stumpage prices on one end and low lumber prices on the other, said Michael Woodworth, business manager for the Missoula-based Local 3038 Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union.

    Average lumber prices have fallen by half, to a 10-year low of $240 per thousand board feet. Many blame the drop in prices on a flood of discounted imports from Canada, which has been cutting off its beetle-killed forests.

    Imports play a significant role in the American market, which is also struggling to compete against increased production from lumber companies in China and South America. Aggregate imports have risen steadily from 20.1 billion board feet in 2001 to 24.7 billion in 2005 – a 38 percent share of the market.

    That’s why Local 3038 has applied for Trade Adjustment Assistance through the U.S. Department of Labor, Woodworth said. The program grants up to two years of schooling and extended unemployment benefits to companies directly affected by imports.

    The Missoula Job Service is currently helping to retrain workers from Stimson’s last round of layoffs, which slashed 120 positions in October 2005. It is now entering into discussions with Stimson and the union to coordinate retraining activities for the latest layoffs, said Will Stubsten, program supervisor for Missoula Job Service.

    “This is a long-term commitment from those folks who want to change careers in a declining industry,” Stubsten said.

    The job training will be for careers in other industries, Woodworth said. There’s little hope that those laid off from Stimson will find jobs with other mills.

    “The whole Pacific Northwest is cutting back, from the West Coast all the way inland,” Woodworth said. “Some operations are closing entirely. Some are working reduced work weeks. It’s affecting everybody.”

    The national drop in production is bringing lumber supplies back into balance with lower demand created by a drop in new housing starts, said Shawn Church, an editor at Random Lengths Publications, which reports on the forest products market from Eugene, Ore.

    “Stimson is not alone,” Church said. “There are mills throughout North America cutting back production and it’s simply a result of a need to adjust supplies to a lower level of demand.”

    Lumber companies had ramped up production in 2004 and 2005 to meet historically high demand for housing, with levels topping 2 million housing starts. However, the National Association of Realtors said total housing starts for 2006 will drop more than 12 percent, to 1.82 million units, and 2007 will likely see an additional 15 percent decline to 1.54 million units.

    “I wish things were better,” Woodworth said. “That mill’s been there for over 100 years. It’s been a great supporter of this community. We hate to see it go this way.”

    The Bonner mill’s heyday came in the early 1980s, when it employed nearly 1,000 workers. Stimson, a privately-held forest products company based in Portland, Ore., bought the mill from Champion International in 1993. The company owns about 500,000 acres of timberland and counts assets and operations in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

    Woodworth said the company has also shortened the work week at its finger-joint plant in Libby and is probably curtailing operations at its other mills.

    “This is a bad time of the year, right through the holidays,” said Woodworth, whose union represents 316 members. “They’re going to work four days after Christmas and then start out the new year with no jobs.”

    While Hickman will not be among those laid off, he was bumped to another shift that pays less.

    “I am going to lose $350 to $400 a month, even though I stay,” he said.

    Still, it’s a good-paying union job that offers insurance, a pension and the option for a 401(K), Hickman said.

    It’s just hard watching co-workers be laid off, he said.

    “These are people you’ve worked with for years,” he said. “You’ve floated the river and gone hunting with them. You wonder what they’re going to do. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

    Now his colleagues at Stimson are left working in an atmosphere of unease, he said.

    “The feeling is, get out of this wood products industry now,” Hickman said. “In general, it seems as if manufacturing jobs involving extractive industries are on the wane.

    “It’s kind of like when somebody’s dying and you get to the point where you stop hoping that they’ll live and start hoping that they’ll just die peacefully.”

    Reporter Tyler Christensen can be reached at 523-5215 or tyler.christensen@lee.net

    Copyright © 2007 Missoulian

    ———–

    Stimson fires 121 workers at its north Idaho mill
    Posted on Oct. 16, 2005
    By the Associated Press

    BOISE, Idaho – Stimson Lumber Co., a privately held wood-products company that owns 500,000 acres of forest in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, is firing 121 workers as it shutters a sawmill in Coeur d’Alene because of falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition.

    The company laid off 120 workers at its Bonner mill earlier this month.

    The Atlas mill in the northern Idaho timber and resort town produced pine board, molding, cedar boards, decking and other kinds of wood products for the building industry. It will close Dec. 31.

    Idaho’s congressional delegation blamed the job losses on cheap Canadian softwood imports that have been at the center of a bitter years-old trade dispute.

    It was at least the second Northwest sawmill to announce recently it was firing workers because of difficult operating conditions.

    Boise Cascade, a Boise-based wood-products company, said Wednesday it’s laying off 70 workers at a La Grande, Ore., sawmill because skyrocketing natural gas prices have made it too costly to run gas-fired boilers.

    The company blamed its woes on imports and alternative wood products robbing its mills of business.

    “Stimson is no longer able to economically compete with import and alternative wood products to its pine and cedar products,” CEO Andrew Miller said in a statement released Friday. “We face dwindling market demand and pricing.”

    Portland, Ore.-based Stimson, which runs separate stud mills in Coeur d’Alene and Priest River, as well as in Hauser following its buyout of that facility in 2004, plans to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor. That federal program helps workers who lose their jobs because of increased competition or jobs being moved outside the United States.

    Immediately after the closure announcement, three members of Idaho’s congressional delegation, Sen. Larry Craig, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Butch Otter, all Republicans, lambasted what they called the result of a spike in softwood lumber imports from Canada.

    “We will support your petition for Trade Adjustment Assistance to help with this transition and will also work to help outside workers, such as loggers, who are not directly employed by Stimson but will be impacted,” the three said in a statement.

    They called for a quick resolution of the dispute with Canada. The United States accuses its northern neighbor of sending millions of board feet of softwood lumber from government-owned timberlands across the border at low prices, making it tough for U.S. companies such as Stimson – harvesting wood from private land – to compete.

    The Bush administration imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber in 2002.

    While North American Free Trade Agreement panels have ruled in favor of Canada, the United States has kept the tariffs in place, on claims that its position is supported by the World Trade Organization.

    In a telephone call Friday, President Bush pressed Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin for a negotiated settlement of the bitter dispute. Martin rebuffed the overture and warned that Canada would seek relief in U.S. courts if necessary, according to the two men’s respective press secretaries.

    Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 09:00:55 -0600
    From: “John Vanstrydonck”
    To: “Matthew Koehler” ,
    “Perry Backus \(MIS\)” ,
    “Tyler Christensen” ,
    “Sherry Devlin” ,
    “Steve Woodruff” ,
    “Michael Moore \(MIS\)”

    Actually, the local paper mill is having the same problem with the supply of logs. Supply is a problem.

    From: Matthew Koehler [mailto:koehler@wildrockies.org]
    Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2007 10:34 AM
    To: John Vanstrydonck
    Cc: Perry Backus (MIS); Tyler Christensen; Sherry Devlin; Steve Woodruff; Michael Moore (MIS)

    John,

    You appear to miss my point. My point is that the article in today’s paper places blame for the impending Stimson closure squarely and solely on lack of log supply. This is strange since your paper published a few articles about Stimson recently (Dec 2006 and Oct 2005) in which the problems facing Stimson Lumber Co. were clearly identified as a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition. These problems were identified by the company itself and by a wood products industry publication…not by an environmental group.

    Are you saying that the problems Stimson faces with a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition no longer exist? That would certainly be news to those in the wood products industry. And someone should certainly let the folks at the US Dept of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program know too since these are the factors that are used to determine assistance through that program.

    Why you are defending the paper’s choice to not let your readers know about the problems Stimson faces with a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition in context of the announcement of the closure of the plywood plant is a mystery to me and I believe it does a disservice to your readers. I fail to see how your readers benefit from only knowing a small part of the total story.

    From the Missoulian Dec 15, 2006:

    The national drop in production is bringing lumber supplies back into balance with lower demand created by a drop in new housing starts, said Shawn Church, an editor at Random Lengths Publications, which reports on the forest products market from Eugene, Ore.

    “Stimson is not alone,” Church said. “There are mills throughout North America cutting back production and it’s simply a result of a need to adjust supplies to a lower level of demand.”

    Lumber companies had ramped up production in 2004 and 2005 to meet historically high demand for housing, with levels topping 2 million housing starts. However, the National Association of Realtors said total housing starts for 2006 will drop more than 12 percent, to 1.82 million units, and 2007 will likely see an additional 15 percent decline to 1.54 million units.

    From the Missoulian Oct. 16, 2005:

    “We face dwindling market demand and pricing.” – Stimson CEO Andrew Miller

    Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 11:37:38 -0600
    From: “John Vanstrydonck”
    To: “Matthew Koehler”

    Fact is, the owners say that they are closing the plant for a lack of supply of raw materials. The other economic factors may have weighed on their decision. The difficulty getting raw materials at competitive prices would tend to make it particularly difficult for a manufacturer when a competitive market puts pressure on margins.

    The owners cite lack of supply of raw materials was the reason they decided to close the mill. I believe that we quoted them accurately. It may not fit your world view, but it is the reason they stated and it seems reasonable.

    Date: Tue, 8 May 2007 16:19:27 -0600
    From: “Perry Backus \(MIS\)”
    To: “Matthew Koehler”

    “The closure is the result of chronic, long-term log shortages in western Montana relative to the milling capacity in the region. At the time of the announcement, the plywood plant imported 60 percent of its’ wood requirements from veneer plants on the west coast and Canada.”

    That’s a direct quote from Stimson’s news release about the closure of the plant. Jeff Webber reiterated that information to me in a telephone conversation as did the union representative. Neither one mentioned anything about slumping market conditions. That information wasn’t mentioned in the company’s news release either.

    I realize you have an extensive background in the wood products industry. Your website said you worked for a lumber company while earning your high school teaching credentials in history and english. Perhaps you should offer them advice on how to make an operation pencil out when you have to import more than half of your raw materials from hundreds of miles away. I’m not an economist, but I would guess that even in a good market, it might be difficult for a lumber mill to compete when they have to import raw products from long distances.

    I also appreciate all of your advice on how to write an article. I’ll be certain to file it away.

    Perry Backus

    Date: Wed, 9 May 2007 13:28:31 -0600
    To: pbackus@missoulian.com, john.vanstrydonck@lee.net, tyler.christensen@lee.net, Sherry.Devlin@lee.net, oped@missoulian.com, Michael.Moore@lee.net
    From: Matthew Koehler

    Perry,

    The personal digs at me aside, have you ever thought that perhaps Stimson Lumber Co. and the wood products industry have a vested political and economic interest in blaming the pending shutdown of the plywood plant solely on lack of log supply and not on other, more important and complex factors? Have you noticed how in w. Montana any talk of “lack of log supply” inevitably turns into we need to log more our national forests? Have you ever seen the timber industry’s 18 wheeler with the names of mills that have shut down over the past twenty years painted on the side, with the inference that these mills shut down because of environmentalists…even though the true is far more complicated than that allegation? I can guarantee you that in the coming weeks organization’s such as our will be blamed in LTE’s, guest columns and maybe even an editorial for the closure of the Stimson plywood plant, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m trying to make sure that the news media accurately portray’s all of the real, complex economic factors that contributed to the closure.

    The fact that you have written me back insisting that lack of log supply was the one and only factor in the closure of the Stimson plywood plant because the corporation said it was true in their press release is rather bizarre. That’d be the equivalent of a reporter insisting that there are WMD’s in Iraq and for proof offering up a press release from the Bush Administration that says it’s true. This is almost like the punch line to a bad journalism school joke.

    In my original message to the Missoulian, I simply stated that I couldn’t help but notice how recent articles about Stimson Lumber Co. that were in the Missoulian (Dec 2006 and Oct 2005) pinned the problems the company was facing on a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition, yet the article in yesterday’s paper places the blame solely on lack of log supply.

    Don’t you feel like that’s a fair question for someone in the public to ask, especially since the problems of a slumping lumber market, falling prices, dwindling demand and foreign competition were identified by the corporation itself, union rep and by a wood products industry publication in recent articles in your paper? These weren’t factors that I pulled out of thin air or made up. Are these no longer problems facing this plywood mill or the wood products industry?

    Senator Tester was interviewed today on KUFM saying something to the effect that he was told by a Montana timber industry lobbyist a few years ago that the amount imports from Canada (and other countries) is so serious that the MT timber industry couldn’t even make it if they got logs for free.

    We have nothing at all against the hard working people of the Stimson mill. But I also know that unless the public and decision makers understand all the complex factors that are at work here, we will not be able to find solutions.

    For example, is any plywood mill in the US doing well? My understanding is that none are, with one main reason being that the relatively newly developed OSB (oriented strand board) is replacing much of the plywood use in this country. The reason for this is quite simple. It’s my understanding that plywood is made by shaving thin strips or “plys” of veneer from large logs (ie old-growth). These logs are called “peeler logs.” Well, most of the “peeler logs” have already been cut down over the past 40 years. Maybe this is why the company has to import 60% of its veneer from the West Coast (ie more productive growing conditions to grow big trees) and Canada (more productive growing in BC and also more access to large tracks of big trees).

    Meanwhile, OSB is made in basically the exact same fashion, except that instead of using large sheets of solid wood veneer from large trees, thousands of 3 and 4 inch long strands of solid wood are combined to make each sheet of OSB. So, technology has been developed that basically has made plywood an obsolete, inferior product. Is this maybe why Stimson is able to maintain production at the stud mill at Bonner, while the plywood plant is closing?

    Also, as was reported in the Missoulian on Dec 15, 2006 in Tyler’s article, “Lumber companies had ramped up production in 2004 and 2005 to meet historically high demand for housing, with levels topping 2 million housing starts. However, the National Association of Realtors said total housing starts for 2006 will drop more than 12 percent, to 1.82 million units, and 2007 will likely see an additional 15 percent decline to 1.54 million units.”

    One of the main uses of plywood is for home construction. Given that OSB has replaced much of the demand for plywood and given that the National Association of Realtors (as reported in the Missoulian) said 2006 housing starts will drop by 12% and 2007 is projected to see an additional 15% decline in housing starts, do you suppose that this has had any impacts on the plywood industry and Stimson in particular?

    I don’t claim to have all the answers to these questions, but I know enough to know that simply regurgitating the information contained within the Stimson Lumber Company’s press release hardly comes close to telling the whole story here. Why don’t you call someone like Dr. Thomas Power, chair of the University of Montana’s Economic Department and an expert on natural resource economics, and get some answers (243.4586 or tom.power@mso.umt.edu).

    All we have been asking with the Missoulian’s coverage of these issues is for objectivity and balanced and factual reporting. That hardly seems like too much to ask for.

    Sincerely,
    Matthew Koehler

    Date: Wed, 16 May 2007 08:46:49 -0600
    To: pbackus@missoulian.com, john.vanstrydonck@lee.net, tyler.christensen@lee.net, Sherry.Devlin@lee.net, oped@missoulian.com, Michael.Moore@lee.net
    From: Matthew Koehler
    Subject: Dr. Power on Stimson Plywood Plant

    Dr. Tom Power, Chair of the Economics Dept at the University of Montana
    Montana Public Radio Commentary – May 14, 2007

    Stimson Plywood Plant Layoffs:
    Politicizing Layoffs in Wood Products

    Last week the Stimson plywood mill outside of Missoula announced its impending closure, laying off its remaining 140 employees. In 2005 that same plywood mill reduced its production and workforce by 119. These job losses were especially painful because many of the workers had been employed at the mill for several decades.

    The Stimson Lumber Company said “The closure is the result of chronic, long-term log shortages in western Montana, relative to the milling capacity of the area.” That is part of the timber industry mantra that all job losses in wood products are due to the National Forests not authorizing sufficient timber harvests from our public lands or environmentalists using the courts to block timber sales. In that sense, Stimson is simply trying to get some political mileage out of its workers’ misfortunes.

    What is absent in Stimson’s explanation for the plywood mill closure is any mention of the market conditions it faced in selling its plywood.

    One might think that Stimson would mention the current housing depression the nation has slipped into, dampening severely the demand for building materials. Between the first quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of this year, housing starts are down 30 percent. Between 2005 and 2006 housing starts decline an additional 13 percent. That’s a cumulative decline in housing starts of almost 40 percent. Not surprising, composite lumber prices have tumbled too, cut almost in half over the last two years. One would think that might lead many wood products firms to reduce their production and layoff workers. That is what the industry has done in every other downturn in the housing market.

    Unfortunately, housing starts are notoriously cyclical which is why the wood products industry itself is cyclical, laying off workers during downturns and rehiring during housing booms. But plywood plants face an even more challenging market reality: Technological change has produced a new superior product that is stealing the market out from under plywood: oriented strand board or OSB. Just as plywood replaced boards as sheathing for buildings and underlayment for floors, OSB is now displacing plywood. Between 1999 and 2005 US production of plywood declined by 20 percent while production of OSB expanded by 29 percent. Since 1987 plywood production in the US has declined by a third. That trend is projected by the industry to continue.

    This long term decline in the role of plywood in the construction industry has led the American Plywood Association, an organization that has been around since 1933, to rename itself the Engineered Wood Association, incorporating manufacturers of OSB and other composite wood materials into it.

    US plywood manufacturers are also losing in the worldwide competition that globalization has unleased. Softwood plywood exports from the US to the rest of the world have plummeted while our imports of plywood have soared. Both reduce the market that our plywood mills can serve. For instance, since 1997 American exports of plywood to Europe have fallen by almost 99 percent and our exports to Asian are down almost 60 percent. During the same time period our imports of plywood have climbed dramatically.

    Given this triple whammy of a depression in new housing starts, long-term substitution of OSB for plywood, and international competition, one might expect plywood mills to be shutting down. After all, there isn’t as large a market to support all those mills any more. And that is exactly what has been happening. Over the last several years Weyerhaeuser Corporation has closed plywood mills in Mountain Pine, Arkansas, Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, Wright City, Oklahoma, and Millport, Alabama, laying off a total of almost 1,000 workers. In addition, Frontier Resources closed its Yakima, Washington, plywood mill and International Paper closed its Waycross, Georgia, plywood mill. Over the last decade or so 8 plywood mills have shut down in east Texas. Note that most of these mills were not located in areas where the US Forest Service was a primary timber supplier.

    For the large industrial forest products companies, this does not mean that the American forest products industry is collapsing. For each plywood mill closing done, a larger and more efficient OSB mill is opening up. For each dozen small lumber mills closing down, a huge automated mill is opened up, boosting significantly, on net, total production capacity. Stimson’s Bonner mill happened to have an older plywood facility rather than a more recent OSB mill and has fallen victim to market conditions, technological change, and globalization.

    One can try to hide this from the citizens of Montana and blame the traditional scapegoats, the federal government and environmentalists, hoping to arrange a return to the good old days before Champion International and Plum Creek cutover huge swaths of Western Montana and the US Forest Service was trying to do the same to our public lands. But those days are never coming back. Our citizens want the public forests to be managed to enhance all of the forest’s natural values, wildlife, recreation, fisheries, scenic beauty, water quality, etc. not just the forests’ commercial values. Once all forest users adjust to that reality, we will be in a position to manage those natural forests in a way that both protects the environmental services on which we all rely and supports local economic vitality.

    Subject: RE: Dr. Power on Stimson Plywood Plant
    Date: Wed, 16 May 2007 09:28:27 -0600
    From: “John Vanstrydonck”
    To: “Matthew Koehler” ,
    “Perry Backus (MIS)” ,
    “Tyler Christensen” ,
    “Sherry Devlin” ,
    “Steve Woodruff” ,
    “Michael Moore (MIS)”

    Hey Matt, sounds like you and Dr. Tom have the same world view. Both you and the good Dr. seem to be claiming that Stimson lied when they stated the reason for closing the mill. Unless you were in their deliberations when they decided to close the mill, or know someone who was, you have no basis to claim that the lack of raw materials was not the reason they closed the mill. If you have some credible inside information that our reporter is not aware of, you should pass it on.

  4. jhwygirl

    Jumpin’ Jimminy Crickets. Your emails back and forth with the Missoulian are absolutely maddening – especially when you understand that while we both have the same agreement, I think, which is the theme of a general protection and promotion of the corporate agenda, we come to it slightly different paths.

    What is screaming at me is the basic inability by the Missoulian to follow up with Stimson’s claim of not having timber. And in your post above that failure by the paper is illustrated quite clearly. I am truly shaking my head.

  5. bigmodag, I am truly sickened along with you. I am pissed that the rest of this community has not stood up and questioned all of the unconnected excuses and lies. I am pissed because others in the union community – whether your union or other unions – haven’t come together in support.

    I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried. I know people are reading these posts. If there is more I can do, let me know.

  6. bigmodag

    The Truth is Out there

  7. bigmodag

    October 14, 2007. Interesting news on KPAX tonight about Stimson. The Governor of Montana, and a very wealthy investor, standing on a mountainside overlooking the Mill site. What a Pleasent scene! The truth is out there for the next owner of the site to find. Anaconda Co. was not a clean company, nor was Champion. There are buried treasures to be found out there.

  8. bigmodag

    “j”, I guess I’ll end my insider conversations for now. We are on a two week layoff, for now. The Missoula community, has changed into a service community now and us remaining middleclass woodsmen/women,who actually produce a “good”,vs.a service, are relic of the past. I did take economics in College,and in a Balanced Economy, goods and services have to Balance out. All the “goods” manufacturing jobs have been Exported now to China, Mexico, the other third world countries, the owners (CEOS), stay here and receive their profits off the sweat of these other countries. Stimson is just squeezing the last of the dedicated workers, who still believe in producing a great product, it’s built into our work ethic, but services serving services,won’t continue into our Grandchildren’s future.

  9. bigmodag

    Pete Talbot, I know you personally and you have some connection to this site. All of Western Montana, Bozeman,have become gated communites for the Elite. There’s an area near Bozeman that is survailed by the Secret Service,has their own ski Mountain,Bill Gates Has a very expensive home there as does Dick Chaney. The Very Rich are Moving here for a reason.
    Probably all the wealthy Stimson Excutives will get out of Portland soon, maybe that’s why they’re saving whats’s left of the Bonner mill site?
    Without a middleclass,who can buy homes and products? There is a dark cloud on the horizon, and the very Rich have created it and are moving here.They don’t want to be in the big cities. Stimson is a Relic.They could care less about making lumber. Peace to Ya!

  10. Bigmodag

    Hey, jhwygirl, The truth is out now, shutting the whole place down. We,the whole crew of the operations were called into a meeting on Tuesday, the CEO Andrew Miller,gave us our 60 day Notice of an “indefinite shut down” of probably 1 to 2 years. Jeff Weber is just a Spokesman for the Company, a VP who will probably lose his job as, Stimson Retreats back to Oregon.It’s a Family owned Company who Hates Unions, Miller is part of the Family, Jeff isn’t. There are a few people who would actually go back there, I’m not one of them. Their game plan is to ,the Company, shut down until the current Union Contract runs out in November 2008(2) Sell the Whole Place to Cooney (Denny Washington’s friend),level it and build luxury townhouses along the Blackfoot River,turn the whole area into a Playground for the Rich.

    A.Miller said only a few months ago, no matter what,our mill would be the last to go in Western Montana,we are too experienced and productive? Pyramid is still going, Plum Creek is still going, DeerLodge is still going.

    The bottomline is they have an aging workforce out there, they don’t want to pay 4 weeks of vacation, health and welfare benefits or pay into our retirement plans any longer. If they were to re-open, It would be a Non-Union sweatshop, but I think the current workforce of experienced people won’t be there.It would take them years to get back up to the level of production,they have now.Miller said they were losing $1 million a month, but he never mentioned when times were good, they were making Millions $ a month, running junk logs from Plum Creek!

    Wonder what Cooney does, when he finds out, since the Anaconda days, a lot of “weird” stuff was buried in the old Log Pond! Get ahold of me sometime for that Beer and a chat-Peace to you! Bigmodag

  1. 1 The mysteries of Stimson…. « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Why Stimson Lumber mill matters. […]

  2. 2 Where’s Missoula in the selection process for a new General Electric operations center? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] I’d certainly hope that some agency or elected officials here in Missoula are doing the same schmoozing that Helena appears to be doing – 150 high-paying jobs from a tech industry giant like General Electric seem to be just what Missoula needs – high paying jobs that can afford what our housing market offers – not the $9/hour jobs that Missoula fell all over themselves to get in the Direct TV call center now housed in the Missoula Development Park. (For my short thoughts on that read this.) […]

  3. 3 A Short thought on the Bitteroot Resort « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] let’s sit on by and watch the high-paying wages of Stimson go bye-bye, and instead let’s have the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation help fund […]

  4. 4 Stimson Lumber Mill Closing « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Other 4&20 posts on Stimson: Why Stimson Lumber Mill Matters The Mysteries of Stimson Stimson Needs a Bigger Yard? On Regurgitating Stimson Lies, False Economic […]

  5. 5 DirecTV: Union Busting With YOUR Tax Dollars « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] was a bad deal as it was. With low-wage jobs – and so many of ‘em – they place more of a strain on our […]




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