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Mendocino Coast Timber Industry Faces Widespread Job Losses

As lumber mills close across the nation, the Mendocino coast timber industry faces widespread job losses. On April 30, the Mendocino Redwood Company and its sister company Humboldt Redwood Company announced the temporary layoffs of about 63 people, with the cuts split between the 2 companies. Redwood lumber is used mostly for high-end renovations, like decks or other lifestyle features, but never for framing a home. The coast’s primary lumber product is redwood, but this downturn has hit all lumber types from pine softwoods to oak hardwoods. CEO Richard Higgenbottom said that the harvest between 2009-2010 will be only be about one-third of our normally planned harvest. We anticipate business conditions could allow (hopefully) a return to active status within the next 18 months. Even though, when Fort Bragg’s redwood lumber mill closed in 2002, there have continued to be more than 200 truck driving, tree falling and other timber related jobs each spring, summer and fall. That will change this year (2009). Operations like Philbrick Logging and Trucking of Comptche, Roach Brothers Logging and Anderson Logging of Fort Bragg are suffering hard times along with the rest of the industry. That’s probably more than a $500,000 in combined payroll that might not be going downtown. Losing some or all of this could be devastating to the local economy. Philbrick said he thinks the industry needs a temporary bailout to return to health. Banks, the auto industry, the fishing industry have gotten help with government bailouts, but the timber industry has never received a dime. Despite the record lumber prices, building is at a virtual standstill. There were 2.3 million housing starts in February 2005 despite high prices. But in February 2009 there were only about 510,000 housing starts. Philbrick says another big problem of the timber industry is that it fails to engage the media, politicians, the nation and even local economies like Fort Bragg about how it has changed its continuing impact. “The timber industry simply doesn’t have a voice out there. “We bleed, we breathe, we spend money, we pay our taxes. We need and we deserve some help, Philbrick said”.
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