One of the nation’s largest lumber producers based in Coeur d’Alene is acquiring Tricon Timber’s stud mill in St. Regis.
The Idaho Forest Group, a family owned wood products company, announced the acquisition last week. The transaction is scheduled to close by Dec. 1.
“The St. Regis sawmill acquisition supports our continued growth and will be an excellent strategic addition to our existing operations in Northern Idaho,” Erol Deren, Idaho Forest Group vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement posted online.
The company did not return a request to comment.
Tricon Timber primarily constructs stud framing lumber as well as softwood flooring and wainscot materials from its mill in St. Regis. The timber plant dates back to 1985, when it started production at a mill in Wyoming. The operations moved to St. Regis in the late 1980s and the location was picked due to the availability of timber that was regenerated from the 1910 fire, according to the company.
Timber companies across western Montana have decried the lack of available timber, and in recent years significant consolidation and closures have occurred. Most prominently, Weyerhaeuser Co. merged with Plum Creek Timber Co. in early 2016.
Idaho Forest Group was formed in 2008 when two regional timber outfits — Riley Creek Lumber and Bennett Forest Industries — combined.
“Tricon was reaching out pretty far to get logs, and mills all around Montana are having to reach because log availability is a challenge,” Todd Morgan, director of forest industry research at the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said.
In fall 2015, Tricon announced it was laying off nearly 90 employees, roughly half of its workforce, amid the tumultuous American timber market. The layoffs were temporary, according to company officials, but reflected the increasing challenges facing independent wood products companies.
Morgan said the Idaho Forest Group has a solid reputation for reinvesting into its mills with new technology that can keep them competitive in the modern market.
“I think the (Idaho Forest Group) has been pretty productive over the last several years and they have been able to grow. They have the cash and ability to buy and invest in mills,” he said.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see them build that economy of scale to help them stay in business.”