Hampton Lumber Mills plans to lay off 80 workers at its Randle sawmill at the end of October, the company said Friday.
Steve Zika, the company chief executive, said Hampton is reducing the mill to 50 hours of production a week because of a shortage of affordable logs to cut.
Hampton’s mill at Morton is also on a 50-hour schedule. Lumber mills normally work two 40-hour shifts a week.
The company chief executive said competition from China for raw logs has raised the price so high that Northwest sawmills can’t buy logs and process them and still make money in a weak housing market.
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Ports such as Tacoma, Olympia and Grays Harbor have been celebrating the freshened demand from China for logs because the log export business at the port docks is up exponentially this year. Zika said what’s good news for the ports, however, is bad news for the lumber towns where local mills are having to cut back production. The workers being laid off make an average of $20 an hour, he said. Randle is on Highway 12 in Lewis County’s Cowlitz River Valley east of Chehalis.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john. gillie@thenewstribune. com