Simpson Lumber announces Shelton-area mill closures, which will result in 270 jobs lost

Simpson Lumber Company LLC delivered a blow to the city of Shelton on Tuesday, announcing that the company will close two mills, which will result in about 270 jobs lost. The closures are part of an asset sale agreement with Sierra Pacific Industries of Northern California.

The downtown Shelton mill and one in the Dayton area of Mason County west of Shelton are set to close in the next 60 days. Most of those jobs will be eliminated, according to a Simpson news release.

Simpson general counsel Betsy Stauffer said the mills could close June 30, and have possible curtailments before then if there’s a reduction in worker shifts.

Salaried and union employees will receive severance benefits, she added.

And there is hope for affected workers. Sierra Pacific plans to build “at least one new, state-of-the-art sawmill and lumber planing operation on the Shelton waterfront site,” the news release states.

The new mill is expected to be operational in 2017.

Prior to that, jobs will be created to deconstruct the mill site and build the new one. The new mill is expected to need 150 to 200 employees, said Lisa Perry, a spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific. She said the former Simpson employees are not guaranteed employment at the new mill — they’ll be asked to apply like everyone else, she said — but “experienced mill workers are an asset.”

Simpson will continue to operate its door company in McCleary, which employs 188, and will continue to own its railroad properties, tracks, tidelands and other properties in the Shelton waterfront area. The company is considering options to re-purpose those facilities.

Sierra is buying saw-milling equipment in downtown Shelton, at the nearby Johns Prairie complex and in Dayton.

Tuesday’s announcement follows on the heels of Olympic Panel Products’ sale to a Springfield, Oregon, company. Olympic Panel of Shelton employs 238 and those jobs will be lost in the next year, said Lynn Longan, executive director of the Mason County Economic Development Council.

“It’s going to be a big impact on the community,” she said Tuesday. “We all have very, very heavy hearts right now.”

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, Longan said she will facilitate a local group of officials “to come together to try and do everything we can to minimize the impact to the community.”

Sierra Pacific has operated in Northern California since 1949 and in Washington state since 2001. It owns 200,000 acres of timberland in the state and has mills in Aberdeen, Centralia and Mount Vernon, spokeswoman Perry said.