Sale of Stimson Lumber Mill Sale Stalls

By Beacon Staff

BONNER – Stimson Lumber Co. says the collapse of a tentative deal to sell its idle lumber-mill property at Bonner has the company looking for another buyer.

Scott Cooney’s Montana Improvement Co. and Stimson signed a buy-sell agreement in January, and there were expectations a deal would become final in May. Stimson Vice President Jeff Webber says the agreement fell apart “because of contingencies that couldn’t be met.” He did not reveal specifics.

Cooney says he still hopes to own at least part of the 170-acre site at Bonner, just east of Missoula.

Oregon-based Stimson bought the mill from Champion International in 1993 and ended the last of the mill operations in May 2008. Montana Improvement Co. bought most of the equipment at an auction in October.

Cooney owns the 42 Bonner houses that once were home to mill employees. He also owns a post office building and some nearby land, which he has said he intends to develop. He has said that equipment he bought at the auction could become part of a biomass plant that he wants to develop on the northern 50 acres of the mill property.

Dick King of the Missoula Area Economic Development Corp. says he keeps in touch with C.B. Richard Ellis, the commercial real estate firm working with Stimson to sell the property.

“We continue to talk to, oh, three or four companies who may be interested in leasing or occupying part of the mill site if a buyer comes forth,” King said. “There are some real opportunities here under the (federal economic) stimulus package.”

Missoula County could designate the property a redevelopment site under a program called Build America Bonds, opening opportunities for access to favorable bonding.

King said that would depend on “getting a good, strong, creditworthy buyer to come to the party. I know that Stimson’s talking to some. They’ve had some inquiries and interest, but nothing’s been agreed to yet.”

Added King, “We continue to tell everybody we can that this is a first-class property and it can be a great site for manufacturing and industrial use. We’re just trying to help out by making that known to a company that might need those kinds of services — rail service, highway service, utilities.”