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Shelton sawmill to close and be replaced with new mill

SHELTON, Wash. — After 35 years in the timber industry, Terry Pelt will be out of work in two months.

"Sadness, dismay, heartbreak, actually," said Pelt, log buyer for the Simpson Lumber mill in Shelton.

The mill that has dominated the Shelton waterfront for more than a century is closing.

"Seeing that come to an end is pretty disheartening," Pelt said.

275 workers received layoff notices.

Simpson is selling the mill to California-based Sierra Pacific Industries, which will tear it down and replace it with a modern mill.

"It didn't make sense for us to modify the existing plant, it takes a whole new sawmill and a whole new layout in order to be competitive in today's world," said Mark Pawlicki of Sierra Pacific Industries.

Pawlicki said newer mills are designed for today's smaller logs.

He said the new Shelton mill is in the design phase, but will probably cost tens of millions of dollars to build.

The new mill won't open for two years and it will employ fewer people, between 170 and 200.

The state says pay in the lumber industry averages $53,000 per year.

It isn't easy to replace jobs like that in Mason County, where the unemployment rate is 7.8% percent, about two percent2 percentage points higher than the state average.

"There are not a lot of jobs that are open in the area," said Lynn Longan of the Mason County Economic Development Council.

She calculates the multiplier effect from the mill closure could mean a couple hundred more people will lose their jobs in Shelton.

"Shelton's a Simpson town, we were built on Simpson, so this is a big blow," Longan said.

Simpson said the recession's impact on the construction industry led it to sell the mill.

President Dave McEntee said the low demand for lumber led to mill slowdowns, and a decision by his company to focus on their door business.

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