The Planned Closing of Pyramid, Announced in
November in the story below, did not happen. Pyramid was reorganized
with new financing arranged for by Missoula County and others.
For the Happy Ending, jump ahead
to this story in May, 2001.
An era ends
November 16, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Gary Noland
for the Pathfinder
Though Pyramid owners announced this week (story below) that
they intended to cease operations in January, Missoula County
has rushed forward with a rescue plan backed by the County Commissioners
and involving several federal agencies and private banks.
The plan, proposed by the Missoula County Economic Development
Corporation, is now under consideration.
After 51 years, Pyramid Mountain Lumber Inc., a mainstay in the Seeley Lake area economy, will be closing down. Pyramid has survived forces beyond its control in recent years, but now joins the list of small, independent Montana sawmills unable to survive in today's market.
For fifty years the Seeley Lake area economy has been nurtured to a great extent by one company, Pyramid Mountain Lumber, so an era will come to an end when the sawmill operation closes its doors for good sometime after the first of the year.
Roger Johnson, president of the tightly held corporation, said the board of directors voted Monday to cease operations permanently. The board consists mostly of members of the Roger Johnson and Albert and Doug Mood families, descended from the two founders, Fred Johnson and Oscar Mood.
Tuesday afternoon the news was announced to employees at a crew meeting.
The sawmill has usually employed around 130 people with fluctuations depending on the market. Only three weeks ago, Johnson announced a work force cutback of between 30 and 40 employees in order to curtail production by 40 percent at a time of soft prices in a saturated lumber market.
Tuesday he said the company felt there would not be any change soon in the soft market.
"We've studied the market," Johnson said, "And if we had not been strong supporters of the community and our crews we probably would have looked harder at this last summer. It's been a tough decision."
He added that last summer they hoped for an improved market in the fall that would help to keep the mill a "viable operation," but that there appears to be "no end to the soft lumber market we have."
The mill will be phased out of production in an orderly wind-down that will provide as much employment as possible and give employees time to look for other jobs, though there will be cutbacks immediately to control costs, Johnson said. He expected that work in some areas of production will continue till after the first of the year to process logs on hand and logs still coming in.
The mill will then be "winterized," Johnson said, and preparations made for an auction of equipment next spring. He anticipated no sale of the mill. "It's just a poor time to try and sell your mill. Everyone is suffering to some degree with this market."
"We've been a small company in today's environment that requires a lot of capitalization," Johnson said. "We've tried to do as much as possible with limited resources, but for us, two bad years out of three takes so much out of your company and limits the ability to do things and be competitive."
Facing these obstacles and a soft market saturated by imports with no change in sight, the board felt that after 51 years, it was time to shut it down, Johnson said.