Archive for July 7th, 2007

by jhwygirl

Stimson Lumber Mill’s plywood workers punched the clock on their last shift Friday, in the final end the plywood production of the plant. A Missoulian article on Friday detailed the shocking news that the productive and profit-making Duratemp production is also being shut down – its patent, held by Stimson, now sold to Roseburg Forest Products (who will make the product at its plywood plant in Oregon.)

An anonymous comment in one of my previous posts on Stimson Lumber Mill suggested, back on June 6th, that Stimson sold out its Duratemp because it was “a lot easier to make money without all those buildings and pesky employees.” Anonymous’ comment was the first I had heard that Stimson sold off its Duratemp, and at the time I found it hard to believe since Duratemp is the up-and-coming very profitable wood product.

Duratemp is a ready-finished wood siding product. It’s pre-painted, looks like siding, is easy to maintain and goes up in full sheets.

Stimson is still maintaining it can’t find competitively priced raw product – i.e., timber. Ironically, while it says it can’t get any competitively priced timber, its plant manager Nick Olsam reports that “Stimson is doing its best to compete in a rapidly changing industry – including investing in its Bonner facilities. The equipment inside the plywood plant will be liquidated to Mill Machinery LLC., and some of the remaining machinery will be repaired and upgraded. The company is rebuilding a lot of its equipment and actively pushing the plant to higher levels of productivity.”

Really? How do you do that by selling off the patent to your most profitable product – Duratemp? And how do you actively push to higher levels of productivity without timber?

Something is stinking really bad down there and the Missoulian is failing miserably at reporting the whole story, while Stimson Lumber Mills, centered out of Washington, looks to be lying to the community and its employees.

The Missoulian has done several stories on Stimson over the last month and a half. What is astounding to me is that they have accepted, de facto, Stimson’s claims that it can’t get any timber. The Missoulian has never investigated whether Stimson looked to other typical sources – the sources that other mills, like Pyramid, utilize for timber – and they’ve failed to point out that Stimson owns fairly large timbered land holdings in Missoula and surrounding counties.

They’ve also failed to investigate the failure of Stimson to competitively bid on timber sales put up by the large timber land holders in the area – sellers like the USFS, Plum Creek Timberlands, BLM, and the State of Montana. A few thorough questions asked of those agencies would show that not only has Stimson failed to aggressively bid on numerous timber sales in the area, but that when they did bid, they bid at prices that were nearly half of what the winning bids were for those timber sales.

With management like that, and a mill that was importing timber for its plywood plant, it’s no wonder they closed the plywood and Duratemp side of the plant.

How can Stimson claim that timber is expensive and non-existent when a mill like Pyramid bids at nearly double Stimson’s infrequent bid prices, and then that timber is essentially driven right by the Bonner mill on its way up to Pyramid’s mill near Seeley Lake? Nearly 50 miles. With gas prices at all-time highs? Can I say “lipstick on a pig”? and the “pig” is the privately-held Stimson company?

Friday’s article also makes mention of the feelings of some of the 133 employees who lost their jobs, officially, on Friday…that Stimson isn’t doing enough to “hang on” and whether it hasn’t been planning a gradual exit all along.

I can understand the futility that these workers must feel – but I can’t help but also wonder whether an organized labor movement might not have helped stave off the permanent loss of their jobs – or what also seems to be coming down the pike, which is a complete shut down or sell-out of the mill. Remember, layoffs have been ongoing since at least 2005.

I’ll reiterate my concerns here regarding these jobs and the seemingly inevitable closing of Stimson’s Bonner plant: Stimson just left go of133 of its employees. By my calculation, there are probably about 150 (or less) jobs left. All of these jobs are good paying jobs, and supported a network of families in the region. The mill itself provides a tax base for the Bonner community. The impact of the recent loss of jobs, yet alone the reduced tax base from the plywood closing, will be felt throughout the region: gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, etc., will all suffer with the loss. Stimson Lumber Mill has been a center of economic production for the Missoula valley for more than a century, and watching it die without so much as a whimper from any elected official, is a failure for the community as a whole.

My first article on Stimson can be found here. The second article has a link embedded with this post.

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