Originally published August 28, 2013 at 12:00a.m., updated September 24, 2013 at 09:27a.m.
OMAK The Omak Wood Products mill received its first shipment of logs from Colville tribal forests last week and each day continues to accept more deliveries of timber.
The company has set a target of the first week of October for peeling its first logs, President Richard Yarbrough said.
“We are full steam ahead on preparing the mill to run again,” Yarbrough said. “We’re extremely pleased with the employees we’ve hired and the work they are doing to bring the mill back up.”
So far, the company has hired approximately 40 workers to perform the cleanup and maintenance tasks required to restart the mill that hasn’t been operational since January 2009.
The current workers are a mix of laborers and specialized tradesmen. A majority are members of the Colville Confederated Tribes.
Yarbrough said the timber required is also creating additional employment opportunities and boosting the the area’s economy.
“Our partnership with the Colville Confederated Tribes to deliver timber has also been excellent,” he said.
Considering the amount of work needed since the mill has been idle for so long, Yarbrough said he feels optimistic about where the company is at.
“I feel very good about it,” he said.
The company expects to continue hiring as the mill gets closer to churning out veneer. Omak Wood Products is on track to employ as many as 100 workers by the end of the year, and could employ as many as 200 at full production. Approximately 230 employees were laid off when the mill — formerly called the Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer mill — shut down in 2009, due to the poor housing economy.
Wood Resources, the parent company of Omak Wood Products, has invested nearly $1.5 million in employee wages, goods and services from the surrounding communities since the restoration work began in July, officials said.
The mill will initially produce softwood veneer for Northwest markets, and is expected to begin producing Douglas fir plywood for specialty and commodity applications in 2014.
In March, Omak Wood Products signed a 25-year lease with Colville Tribal Federal Corp., an enterprise of the Colville Confederated Tribes, to reopen the mill.
The agreement also included a log supply agreement between the two organizations.
A second Omak-area mill, Colville Indian Precision Pine, has remained idle since 2009.