Saturday, April 4, 2015
“We’re optimistic overall for another good year,” said Tom Ray, Plum Creek’s vice president of northwest resources and manufacturing. “The largest single concern is the lack of raw materials, but we’re hoping Congress will address that.”
One of the largest landowners in the U.S., Plum Creek had a strong year in 2014, reporting earnings of $214 million on $1.48 billion in revenues. Harvest numbers were 13 percent over 2013.
But timber resources in Northwest Montana can have a concern. Last year, Plum Creek cut back hours for workers at the Columbia Falls sawmill from 40 hours per week to 36 after a federal court ruling blocked several timber sales on state forest land.
“We had a decline there, but once we get past breakup and into early summer, we’re hopeful to go back to a regular schedule,” Ray said.
Plum Creek plans to invest $6 million at its medium-density fiberboard plant in Columbia Falls. The No. 1 line, which was built in 1974 and manufactures panels up to 1 1/4 inches thick, will see $1.6 million for improvements to reliability and efficiency. Another $300,000 will be spent on computer equipment and monitoring cameras.
The company also plans to spend $2 million on the MDF plant’s No. 2 line, which was built in 2001 at a cost of $80 million and produces thin panels one-tenth of an inch thick. The furniture industry is a major customer, but other businesses now use MDF products.