General Manager confirms Omak mill to close

Lack of logs leads to layoffs at OFP

“The Tribe was supplying us logs… they’re not going to do that anymore. We have been put in a position where we have no other choice but to layoff our workers.”

OFP General Manager David Niessner

OMAK – The general manager of Omak Forest Products, a plywood mill in Omak, has confirmed a state WARN alert that more than 200 employees will soon be without a job.

The Washington State Department of Employment Security issued a 60-day WARN notice that Omak Forest Products was planning on laying off 217 employees on Jan. 29, 2017.

On Dec. 1, the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation notified OFP that it’s contract and log supply agreement with the company would end on Jan. 29, according to OFP General Manager David N. Niesser.

“Unfortunately that’s our current plan, we’re leasing the mill from the Colville Confederated Tribe. We had a unique situation where the Tribe was selling us logs…. they’re not going to do that anymore. We have been put in a position where we have no other choice but to layoff our workers,” Niessner said.

He went on to say the company had been looking for a group of investors that would be interested in taking over the mill.

“However, no one is interested if we don’t have a long term log supply,” he said, adding that the decision follows a year where the mill lost nearly $1 million.

While he attributes the loss to a bad market, Neissner told the Tribal Tribune 2017 was shaping up to be a good year pointing to a rally of the stock market over the last month. He said people were starting to be more optimistic about building and construction.

Omak Forest Products leased Omak Wood Products from the Colville Confederated Tribes in February of this year. The purchase was made shortly after Omak Wood Products announced that it would discontinue operating the Omak mill and lay off 175 workers in early 2016. The Tribe had re-opened the mill in a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Jay Inslee in November of 2013.

The deal between the Tribe and OFP allowed the mill to stay open and workers to keep their jobs for 11 months, but it looks like that will all come to an end soon. Niessner said the mill will stop processing logs by the end of this year and stop marketing product by mid-January of 2017.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) act requires companies with 100 or more employees to notify affected workers 60 days prior to closures and layoffs.

Lack of logs leads to layoffs at OFP

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.