Nearly a year ago, the last commercial sawmill operating in southern Oregon’s Josephine County shut its doors, laying off 85 workers. Now, the Rough and Ready Lumber Company is gearing up to re-open, with the help of financing facilitated by the government and conservation groups.
Rough and Ready mill owners Jennifer and Link Phillippi announced the re-opening at Cascade Wood Products near Medford, a former and soon-to-be-again customer. They were flanked by Governor John Kitzhaber and representatives from the state and federal governments and environmental non-profits.
Link Phillippi said re-opening the mill will be a godsend, not only for the newly-hired workers and their families, but for the entire region.
Link Phillippi: “What we are establishing today is for these working members of our community to re-engage. They will stay in the area and continue to contribute at PTA members, coaches, 4H leaders, watershed council and church volunteers. And, not to be forgotten, as taxpayers.”
The rural Illinois Valley, where the Rough and Ready mill is located, has suffered high poverty and unemployment rates as the timber economy declined in recent years.
A financing package of loans, investments and tax credits totaling $5 million will allow the mill to re-tool to more efficiently process small-diameter logs. That’s the type of timber produced by the forest thinning and restoration projects that have become more common as logging larger trees has been scaled back due to environmental concerns.
Rough and Ready expects to have the new small-log mill up and running by this summer. The company’s conventional sawmill will remain closed, at least until a legislative deal is reached that would allow more logging of mature trees from nearby federal forests.