Plum Creek Announces More Layoffs

By Beacon Staff

Plum Creek Timber Co. announced Friday that it is laying off 64 employees at its Kalispell plywood plant and an additional five employees in Columbia Falls in response to waning demand from customers.

The move eliminates one of three rotating shifts at the Kalispell plant and reduces its output capacity by 20 percent, according to a press release. Employees at Plum Creek, the largest private landowner in the nation with about 8 million acres of timberland, have been told about the change.

Plum Creek has been scaling back operations at several of its local operations since the beginning of the year. And the most recent layoffs, which take effect Dec. 1, come at a time when many of the Flathead Valley’s largest employers have reduced payroll in response to the beleaguered national economy. Just last week, Semitool, a top manufacturer of semiconductor equipment used in electronics, laid off 100 employees. Over the summer, 120 people lost their jobs at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company.

“We are not seeing any improvement in the national economy in the fourth quarter, and our customers are continuing to feel the effects of these challenging conditions,” Hank Ricklefs, vice president for Northern Resources and Manufacturing, said in a prepared statement. “The outlook does not indicate improvement until 2010, requiring us to re-align our basic plywood capacity.”

“We had at least hoped to keep operating three shifts through the year at the Kalispell facility, but the demand for specialty plywood is just not there,” he added.

Plum Creek employs about 1,000 people in the Flathead, and makes roughly 25 percent of its revenue in Montana.

Related: As Markets Decline, Timber Industry Hangs On