CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. – Bulldozers are hard at work at the Rough and Ready mill in Cave Junction to prepare for what will become a newer, more efficient operation.
Once a casualty of the failing timber industry, now they’re preparing to re-hire 67 people.
“These employees almost feel more attached to this mill than we do,” said co-owner Jennifer Phillippi. “We feel like we’re kind of stewards of the mill, but it’s for them.”
The news is thanks to a roughly year-long effort announced Friday by governor Kitzhaber.
The initiative is a collaboration between multiple public and private agencies to get the mill back on their feet and keep them there.
“The basic mill was still there. What it needed was to be re-tooled and upgraded and get the financing they needed, and a stable timber supply,” said Kitzhaber.
The financing will come in the form of a million dollars in state loans, three quarters of which will be contingent on the company creating at least 60 full-time positions. They’ll also receive roughly $4 million in state and federal tax credits over the next 7 years.
Meanwhile, a study led by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative (SOFRC) identified roughly 28 million board feet of timber each year to be farmed on nearby federal lands over the next 20 years.
“There’s a real opportunity to go out onto that forested landscape, reduce density, and in the reduction of that density provide materials to the mills,” said George McKinley, Executive Director of the SOFRC.
The Rough and Ready owners say that opportunity, when combined with harvest on private lands, could benefit more than just their company.
“This mill only uses 30 million board feet,” said Phillippi. “You could support our mill and the other mills in the community very easily.”
The mill is expected to re-open in June. Phillippi says the 67 positions brought on at the beginning will only have them running at half-capacity, meaning another 30-40 jobs could open up in the future if the initiative proves successful.