Stimulus Money for Forest Products Industry

Stimulus money could save MT wood products industry
Reporting from KPAX in Missoula

Back in the 1980's, the wood products industry represented more than 30 percent of Missoula County's economy...but that number has now fallen to around 12 percent.

The industry's been shaken to its roots in this recession, but some federal stimulus money could save the day.

Smurfit stone container's bankruptcy left about 14 of its small business suppliers still needing to be paid. So, the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation stepped in and borrowed $1 million from the Department of Commerce and paid the bills, which helped save jobs.

"They've all told us that without this, they probably would have had to shut down this summer" explained Dick King with the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation.

That million dollars is just part of a much bigger stimulus package to help Montana's wood products industry and it's 9,000 workers punch through the recession.

J&R Planing of Missoula is a 33-year old company that endured a devastating fire at it's old Florence plant and only laid off one person in its 50 person workforce. Now, the company is hoping for a million dollars in stimulus money for equipment upgrades and more. But in the meantime, it's learned to adjust.

"The phones stopped ringing last October. We hit a wall and wondered what we do next" said the company's Haywood Jones. "We got a new game plan and slowly but surely everything came back. Larger companies...I see are programmed one way, and as soon as they go off track, it's difficult, for them to adjust. And we're just at that level where if there's a hiccup, we can adjust.

J&R Planing specializes in high end building materials. For example, wood siding reworked to look like logs for the fashion forward home builder. While the nation still hungers for the product, it's taking smaller bites.

Staying ahead of the curve means coming up with the next big thing. So, they did. A future issue of Montana Living magazine plans to feature J&R Planing's/Bitterroot Valley Forest Products "Montana Ghost Wood".

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