SHELTON — Logs are moving at break-neck speed through the sawmill and planer lines at Sierra Pacific Industries’ stud mill in Shelton.
Construction on the state-of-the-art mill started about two years ago, not long after SPI bought the former mill site from Simpson Logging Co. when it closed in 2015.
Today the new mill produces 2 by 4, 2 by 6 and 2 by 8 boards at breakneck speed.
SPI Spokeswoman Lisa Perry says the mill is the fourth or fifth largest lumber producer in the U.S. and the No. 1 producing sawmill in Washington state.
“We’re still not up to full capacity but we’re almost fully staffed now,” Perry said. “We now have 267 employees we hit [Thursday]. So that’s exciting although we still have lots of job openings.”
Perry took Shelton-area media representatives on their first tour Friday. The sawmill was dedicated on Monday.
The 175,000-square-foot building house two full sawmill and planer lines.
The mill has been up and running for about a year after a series of tests.
“So the wood for this mill comes from all over the Olympic Peninsula, some from the south,” she said. “All the way over to Eatonville, maybe Muckelshoot Reservation. That’s as far as we go east.”
Perry says the byproduct of the mill — chips and sawdust — goes into other products.
“If you went back 40 or 50 years you probably wasted 30 to 50 percent of the fiber that was part of the tree,” she said. “Now we use basically every flake of fiber for something. Chips are sent off to paper and cardboard manufacturers. Shavings are shipped here locally … to make livestock bedding. Sawdust is held for pellet manufacturers and last but not least we use some of the sawdust to power steam for our dry kiln.”
One of the more difficult duties at SPI has been recruiting employees.
“It has been hard to recruit, just with the economy better I think people have options so I think we need to make people understand the career opportunities we have here,” she said.
Perry says the mill now employees 267 people and is looking for 10-15 more to add it its staff.
“The trades kind of lost some of their luster back in the day,” she said. “So I think a lot of us in the education field are working to make people understand what job opportunities are in the trades right now.”