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Omak mill reopening after long shutdown

OMAK, Wash. – The Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer plant in Omak will restart operations this summer after shutting down more than four years ago when the recession hit the construction industry.

In Omak, the news means one thing: jobs.

Officials say 100 mill workers will be hired when it restarts, and eventually some 200 employees will operate the mill, which laid off 230 employees in January 2009.

The restart comes with a 25-year lease between the Colville Tribal Federal Corp. – the Colville Tribes’ business arm – and Wood Resources, a subsidiary of the Greenwich, Conn.-based Atlas Holdings, which operates three other mills in the country.

“We’re just so excited and happy for the return of jobs,” Colville Tribal Chairman John Sirois said.

He said the partnership with a private plywood manufacturer will enable the Colville Tribes to restart timber operations on tribally owned forestland. “We haven’t moved any timber in quite a while,” he said.

Sirois said it’s too soon to say whether the restart could signal an eventual reopening of the Colville Indian Precision Pine, a tribally owned lumber mill east of Omak that laid off 130 people when it closed in November 2009.

But economic development officials are hailing the news.

“For the last couple of years, people have struggled, and we’ve seen businesses go out because people didn’t have money coming in,” said Roni Holder-Diefenbach, executive director of the county’s Economic Alliance, the county’s economic development agency.

“This is going to put people back to work, and when people are working, they’re able to shop locally,” she said. “They’re able to eat at restaurants.”

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