Pieces of 58-year-old institution snapped up for fraction of value.
Piece by piece, the last of the family-owned Harwood mill was auctioned off Tuesday, November 18, to pay off a $3 million dept to Wells Fargo Bank.
For two decades after World War ll, Mendocino County had about 200 sawmills, many of them portable mills. Since the mid-1960′s, all but five of the county’s mills have shutdown.
Mendocino County’s history was built on the logging industry. The first sawmill in Mendocino County was built on the Mendocino Headlands for Henry Meiggs as part of the California Lumber Manufacturing Company incorporated June 20, 1852.
With the closing of Harwood Mill in Branscomb with more than 200 workers, the mill had been a major employer in Mendocino county until its closure early this year.
Harwood Products was a victim of the nationwide housing slump, which caused the price of lumber to drop to near-record lows. It shut down in January, with hopes of reopening in a few months, but the closure lasted longer than expected, creating a cash flow problem that ultimately led to bankruptcy proceedings.
Harwood said “In the old days, the bankers understood the good times and the bad times. Now it’s like you miss your payment and you’re toast,” he said.
“This is a bloodbath,” said Bruce Burton, who owns a small mill in Willits and is one of two mills left in Mendocino County with the Ukiah Saw Mill being the other.
The company has been resilient in the past, weathering past economic downturns that led the county’s largest timber companies, Louisiana Pacific and Gerogia Pacific, to sell.
Forty years ago, the Harwoods were forced to sell their Willits mill and thousands of acres of timberland.
Following that setback, the family focused on its Branscomb mill, located west of Laytonville in a town of about 100 people.
When the timber company was hit in the 1990′s by increased regulations and a dwindling supply of large trees, it rebounded by turning to specilaty wood products.
In the late 1990′s, it spent millions expanding the mill’s capacity and installing hgh-tech equipment that allowed it to mill smaller logs.
But now the end of another era with the mill being auctioned off piece by piece with the final bids ending on Tuesday, November 18.