The Cedar Palace, the former Plum Creek Timber Co. administrative office in Columbia Falls from which a timber giant reigned for decades, has shuttered and is awaiting a new fate.
The 37,000-square-foot office officially closed Dec. 16. Roughly 100 employees were laid off in the latest closure since Weyerhaeuser absorbed Plum Creek in a 2016 merger. The job cuts follow the closure of Weyerhaeuser’s lumber and plywood mill in Columbia Falls in August, which resulted in the loss of 72 positions.
Tom Ray, Weyerhaeuser’s Montana Resources Team Leader, said the company has not determined what to do with the shuttered facilities.
“We are still looking at our options for both the office and the mill site, and have made no decisions on what will happen to them in the future,” Ray said in an email.
Weyerhaeuser still employs roughly 500 people in Montana, and operates a lumber mill and plywood plant in Kalispell and a medium-density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls.
With 880,000 acres, Plum Creek was the state’s largest private landowner when the merger occurred a year ago. When asked about the company’s real estate plans, Ray responded, “Weyerhaeuser continually engages with the market on various timber and land holdings as a normal course of business, both buying and selling property.”
Ray declined to discuss production numbers but said Weyerhaeuser is “optimistic about 2017 with the expected increase in housing starts.”
Following the mill closure, Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester sent a letter seeking answers to questions and concerns of local families in regards to the company’s future. Tester has not received a response to his letter, but his staff has met with company officials to advocate for long-term public access to Weyerhaeuser’s lands as well as additional support for the laid-off employees.
In June, the Washington-based company agreed to allow free public access on its lands for another year through the state’s block management program. Laid-off workers recently received job retraining and placement assistance through federal resources.
“In Montana, there is an obligation to be a good neighbor and we know the value of working together to strengthen our communities,” Tester said. “That’s why I will hold Weyerhaeuser accountable to work with the people of Columbia Falls and protect the longstanding public access that folks in the Flathead have enjoyed for years.”