A group of more than 50 community leaders and elected officials, including Congressman Doug LaMalfa, received a firsthand look at Sierra Pacific Industries’ new large-log sawmill in Quincy on Friday, May 29.
SPI owners Red and George Emmerson were on hand to field questions and emphasize their commitment to keeping jobs in Plumas County.
“We are really happy to be here today,” George Emmerson told the group during a post-tour luncheon. “We would not have made this investment if we didn’t plan to be here for the long haul.”
Emmerson said the mill currently employs about 300 people. Hourly wages at the mill start at $14 and can grow to the mid-20s as workers gain experience.
“The 300 jobs at this mill support a lot of other jobs in the community,” Emmerson said. “I believe every job we have supports seven to nine other jobs.”
The Emmersons made a point of keeping workers employed during the 10 months while the new sawmill was under construction.
According to SPI spokesman David Little, who led one of the three tours, the last log ran through the old mill April 8, 2014. The new mill opened Feb. 23.
Instead of laying off the sawmill crew, SPI had the crewmembers help build the new mill.
Little said the new mill was a necessity. The old large-log mill was built in the 1960s and wasn’t efficient by modern standards.
“The Emmersons added to (the large-log mill) when they bought the mill in 1976,” Little said. “But the old mill had limitations.”
Little said the new mill isn’t running at 100 percent efficiency yet, “but we’re still putting out a lot of lumber.”
SPI, which is the second-largest lumber producing company in the nation, produces about 250 million board feet of lumber a year at the Quincy mill.
The Quincy mill cuts Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir, Douglas fir and incense cedar.
In addition to the large-log sawmill, the Quincy mill has a small-log sawmill, dry kilns, a planer mill, the Quincy railroad and a cogeneration/biomass boiler.
Little said every last piece of wood that arrives at the mill is used in one way or another. He said the cogeneration facility generates 20 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for 20,000 homes.
Despite a current slump in lumber prices, the mill will be stockpiling logs during the summer, the peak logging season.
“We are ramping up the log deck,” he said. “We try to build up enough (log supply) to last through the winter months (when most local logging shuts down because of muddy roads).”
Those taking the tour appeared impressed with the new mill and the overall operation in general.
Plumas Supervisor Lori Simpson thanked the Emmerson family for its ongoing commitment to Plumas County.
“My grandson lives just down the street (from the mill),” Simpson told the Emmersons. “And I’m thankful he is going to grow up smelling fresh-cut lumber.
“I want to thank the Emmerson family for investing in our county and keeping jobs here.”
Little said automation has been gradually taking over the timber industry and that jobs nationwide have been lost because of it.
It takes 15 to 20 workers each shift to operate the new large-log mill. He said automation is necessary to keep the company competitive in the industry and ensure there will still be jobs at the Quincy mill.
He added the Emmersons are “very aggressive” about growing SPI and that workers have the opportunity to grow and work their way up in the family-owned company.
Sierra Pacific Industries owns and manages approximately 1.7 million acres of timberland in California, and 230,000 acres in Washington state.
The company was started in 1949 by A.A. (Red) Emmerson and his father, R.H. (Curley) Emmerson. They started with one sawmill employing about 10 people in Humboldt County.
Today the company employs nearly 4,000 people.
From: Plumas County News, Dan McDonald, Managing Editor