PILOT ROCK - The Kinzua mill in Pilot Rock and Sir Walter Lindal, founder of Lindal Cedar Homes, have reached an agreement that will add much-needed jobs to this town of 1,500, where 160 people lost their jobs when Masonite Corp. closed its operation in 1999.
"We're in agreement in principal," said Bill Woodfin, Kinzua's general manager. "Eventually we'll have a long-term contract."
Last week Woodfin and Lindal arranged for Kinzua to supply Lindal Cedar Homes of Seattle with 6 million-board-feet of dimension lumber per year.
That's about 300 truck loads of 2-by-4s and 2-by-6s. The company will use the lumber for interior construction in its products.
Woodfin anticipates hiring another 12 employees and adding a shift to the small-log mill, where a McGeehee SL 2000 saw is already turning small-diameter logs into dimension lumber.
Kinzua and Lindal are also discussing production of interlocking wood components, designed and patented by Lindal for use in solid wood doors, flooring, ceilings and walls.
"We've agreed to test new products for him," Woodfin said. Kinzua needs at least six months to begin producing the interlocking components.
Woodfin said the company will enter into a partnership with Lindal and Frontier Resources, Kinzua's parent company, to design and build the necessary specialized equipment.
"This is all state of the art, with new processes," Woodfin said. One of the first items they hope to turn out is snap-together decking. Lindal holds a patent for the design and will do all the marketing.
"We plan to add more jobs for the interlocking components within the next six months," Woodfin said. "We can't say how many it might be at this point."
Kinzua plans more investment in the Pilot Rock operation, including an expansion into the Masonite site, which International Paper - the parent company of Masonite - recently donated to the city.
Lindal said the Pilot Rock mill can turn out the doors, decking, roof planks and log siding his company needs.
"Kinzua can make them all for us," Lindal said. "And we can market them all to our house people."
This announcement comes as good news to the U.S. Forest Service, which will have a new outlet for material taken off the forest during fuel reduction projects.
Randy Fitzgerald, assistant fire management officer for fuels at the North Fork John Day Ranger District in Ukiah, said until recently the Forest Service has mulched most of the small trees removed by fuel reduction projects or sold them for chips.
"A month ago we had only one outlet: The chip market, which is unstable and often low," Fitzgerald said.
Now, Fitzgerald has a more valuable product and more potential purchasers. The small trees that went for chips bring in more money when milled for lumber. The North Fork John Day has three fuel-reduction projects totaling about 500 acres ready to go this spring.
Income from selling the material the contractors remove can go to fund more fuel-reduction projects.
Kinzua's plans to add jobs and expand into the neighboring Masonite site will amplify those returns in Pilot Rock.
"We're excited," said Pilot Rock's mayor, Virginia Carnes. "If they're getting something lined out with Lindal that would be wonderful. Anything that would bring jobs to this community would be wonderful."
Lindal shares her optimism.
"I'm looking forward to a long and beneficial relationship between the companies, and also for the Pilot Rock area."