Specializing in industrial grade hardwood lumber primarily used for furniture and cabinets, the small mill located in Raymond has customers as far away as China and just south into California.
“We hope to increase our production when we get the dry kilns operational,” said Gordon Chaffee.
The mill has been shipping their Alder hardwood boards out of the area for drying, but with the upgrades continuing at the local wood drying kilns, Chaffee anticipates an increase to productivity within the next couple of weeks.
“When the kilns come on line we should be able to produce 20,000 board feet a day locally,” Chaffee said.
With the savings in transportation and time in realizing the finished product, Willapa Bay Hardwoods looks to be reinvigorating a local industry that was once thought dead. The mill has gone through several hands to end up right where it started, and once again operational. Current owners are taking the risk others would not and have saved the small mill from the auction block.
“Somebody had to take the risk,” Chaffee said. “The group has saved the mill from auction and brought in a few jobs. When the kilns start up we hope to bring in a few more jobs for the community.”
With raw material being pushed through daily, some Maple is also processed; the mill is selling both nationally and internationally, in hopes that the customer base will increase commensurate with production ability.
“Most mills run with like equipment as we have, this mill was upgraded as recently as 1996,” Chaffee said. 'The kilns only need some small repairs and they should be ready to go.”
With the Port of Willapa Harbor always looking to fill a space with the right customer, having the mill back in an operational state, and soon the kilns active again, saves them from having to deal with another open industrial space, abandoned equipment and another lost tenant.