F. H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company announced Tuesday that it would temporarily shut down its Columbia Falls sawmill, laying off 45 to 50 employees.
The mill will close Feb. 2, according to a press release. Lumber drying, planing and shipping will continue as long as operationally feasible, and logging operations will continue until mid-February to ensure “an ample log inventory when production resumes.”
Stoltze is just the latest local wood products company to shed jobs. The industry has suffered greatly during the economic recession. As housing prices have dropped, construction has slowed dramatically and demand for commodities, especially wood, has waned. In the last several weeks, Plum Creek Timber Co. has eliminated about 270 jobs in the area.
In a prepared statement, Stoltze said the “shutdown is fueled by continuing poor lumber markets across the broader United States. Lumber producers like Stoltze are finding it increasingly harder to sell their product and to realize above break-even margins in this climate.”
The company anticipates the shutdown will last at least six weeks and said there will be additional layoffs as logging and planing operations finish.
Flathead County is already home to one of highest unemployment rates in the state at 7.3 percent. It will almost certainly increase when the state releases its latest numbers next week.
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