By BRYAN CORLISS
ARLINGTON — Enterprise Lumber Co. will close after the first of the year, eliminating jobs for 170 people at its three mills in Arlington and Oso.
The high cost of raw logs and low prices for finished lumber are the reasons, according to officials with Miller Shingle Co., Enterprise’s parent company.
"This has been a very difficult decision for us since we have so many great people working with us," company president Bruce Miller II said.
He said the company is trying to find a buyer for the mills. No one has stepped forward with an offer on all three properties, but "we hope to reach agreement soon on individual sites," he said in a prepared statement.
The first mill to close, the Arlington sawmill, will shut down Jan. 7, Miller chief financial officer Tom Leach said Wednesday. The other mills will close after that, with the exact dates dependent on several factors, including the availability of logs and how soon the trained workers can find other jobs.
The closures won’t affect the remainder of Miller Shingle’s operations in Granite Falls and Everett, the company said.
It’s too soon to tell what effect it will have on the community, said Rob Putnam, manager of Arlington Municipal Airport. Enterprise has a long-term lease on 23 acres in the airport’s industrial park.
"It’s a complete surprise," Putnam said. "Until today we thought they were a pretty stable company providing pretty stable jobs for their people."
The housing market has been strong this year, and that’s increased demand for lumber, Leach said. But it also has attracted the attention of lumber exporters in Canada, Europe and elsewhere. They’ve flooded the market, pushing prices down.
At the same time, log costs are high because of a shortage of logs, which Miller blamed on "the artificially reduced volume of federal and state timber in the local area."
"Since proceeds from state of Washington timber sales are used to finance school construction, I’m very surprised that Washington property taxpayers aren’t up in arms," he said. "They should put more pressure on the lands commissioner in Olympia to fulfill her legal requirement to continue to harvest timber on a responsible, sustained-yield basis."
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