Originally published January 22, 2014 at 12:00a.m., updated January 22, 2014 at 12:00a.m.
OMAK Omak Wood Products has hired a general manager to oversee operations of the plywood and veneer mill as it continues to progress toward adding more shifts.
David Niessner recently joined Omak Wood Products to give the mill a full-time manager in Omak.
Omak Wood Products President Richard Yarbrough, who has been splitting time between Oregon and Omak, said Niessner “brings a very high caliber of experience” to the position.
Niessner said it’s an excellent opportunity for him to help grow the business.
He is in the process of moving from Atlanta to Omak, along with his wife.
“David brings expert leadership and a keenly analytical mind to the unique opportunity and partnership New Wood Resources has embarked on with the Colville Tribes,” said Kurt Liebich, CEO of New Wood Resources, the parent company of Omak Wood Products. “His contributions will fuel growth and drive success.”
With the mill being a high-profile employer in town, Yarbrough said it’s important to have a manager who can integrate with the community and be the face of the company.
The mill currently employs just over 100 employees, with plans of adding more shifts in the spring, Yarbrough said.
So far, he’s been pleased with the work ethic of the employees, he said.
“You can’t take that for granted” in the overall success of the mill, Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough admits his timeline for getting the mill back up to full speed was a “little more ambitious” a year ago. However, he still believes the mill is on track with where he’d like it to be.
“There’s still more growth potential,” he said.
Yarbrough said the mill will add a second shift on the driers sometime in the near future, which would bring in at least seven more workers. A second shift on the green end is expected to be added about April, which would add at least eight more employees.
Yarbrough said the mill will continue to add shifts as it can. He estimated about 130 people would be employed by the mill by mid-summer.
Right now, the mill is getting about 95 percent of its timber from the Colville Tribes, Yarbrough said.
“That will support about two shifts,” Niessner said.
However, if the mill expands beyond that, officials will have to tap into other markets, Niessner said.
Niessner has 35 years of experience in the wood and paper industries.
He is originally from Pennsylvania, earning a degree in forestry from Penn State University. He spent 17 years working in Oregon, prior to moving to Georgia.
His background in forestry will be important as the mill looks to be an “active participant in the land policy discussion” in Okanogan County, Yarbrough said.
Plans to reopen the mill at 1100 E. Eighth Ave. began in March 2013, when Omak Wood Products officials signed a 25-year lease and log supply agreement with Colville Tribal Federal Corp.
Maintenance and upkeep work was done throughout the summer, before the business celebrated its return to production with an Oct. 7 ceremony. Omak Wood Products reopened with 87 employees.
About 230 people had been employed when the mill — then operating as Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer — shut down in January 2009 due to the housing economy.