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93 will lose jobs when Idaho sawmill closes

A Naples, Idaho, sawmill employing 93 workers is being shuttered in December and its workers laid off indefinitely.

Welco Lumber Company USA, which makes cedar picket fence boards, announced today that it can operate more efficiently by closing its Naples mill and concentrating production at its main Shelton, Wash., sawmill.

Employees were notified on Wednesday of the closure.

The Shelton mill recently underwent upgrades that will allow the company to meet production demands through the foreseeable future, said Peter Stroble, director of sales and marketing for the company.

The closure is expected in the third week of December. Employees are eligible for up to four weeks of severance pay at a rate of one week of severance for each year of employment with a minimum payment of $1,000.

“It’s sad to have to lay them off,” said Stroble. “They are good hard-working people up there.”

Welco purchases cedar logs for its production, so closure of the mill will apparently eliminate an outlet for cedar logs in North Idaho.

Welco has owned and operated the Naples mill since 1992. Naples is located 22 miles north of Sandpoint along U.S. Highway 95.

Stroble said the company has no plans to sell the Naples mill, and probably could not find a buyer for it even if it wanted to sell.

The wood-products industry has been hard hit by the downturn in the national housing market and the accompanying economic recession.

Stroble said the company is retaining the option of re-starting the Naples mill, but company officials believe the Shelton mill will be able to produce sufficient fence boards to meet forecasted sales growth and any improvement in the economy through 2012. The Shelton plant could be expanded to meet additional demand in 2013 and beyond.

Welco is a locally-owned company in western Washington that started 58 years ago in Marysville and later moved to Shelton.

Its Web site says Welco is “North America’s leading primary manufacturer of western red cedar fence pickets.”

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