Warm weather, cedar shortage crisis cause layoffs at Katahdin Forest Products
OAKFIELD, Maine (WAGM) - An abnormally warm winter combined with burgeoning logging labor shortages led Katahdin Forest Products, parent company of Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, to lay off 20 employees this week according to a release by the company Friday afternoon.
The dramatic measure was taken to reduce costs and complete processing of remaining cedar log stock. Once the cedar log stock is processed, the mills will shut down until the 2023-24 cedar harvest season commences.
Northern White Cedar has a limited harvest window during the months of January through March. The cedar trees thrive in swamps in Northern Maine and can only be harvested when the ground is frozen, which has hindered the company from harvesting cedar on schedule.
Katahdin Cedar Log Homes operates with three mills in Ashland, Oakfield, and Chester. The Ashland mill was closed in January 2023 when its cedar stocks ran out. The Oakfield and Chester mills will continue to operate on a limited basis to fulfill home and fencing orders with the cedar logs in inventory.
It is projected that the company will deplete its cedar stocks in June.
“Over 50 years of operation, this record-breaking warm winter was a first. Compounding the weather challenge is a lack of logging crews to make up the difference during the abbreviated cedar harvest season. These factors have combined to force us to drastically cut operations,” said David Gordon, CEO and owner, Katahdin Forest Products. “We will continue to operate with essential personnel until the wood supply is exhausted.”
The Maine logging industry has been suffering a labor shortage that has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the release. Other lumber producers in Maine are facing similar shortages for dimensional lumber as logging companies lose traction because of skilled labor shortages and inflation affecting the cost of essentials from diesel fuel to equipment.
A recent video conference meeting to discuss the mill layoffs and wood crisis included representatives from the offices of:
• Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King
• Congressman Chellie Pingree
• Maine Department of Economic and Community Development
• Finance Authority of Maine
• Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC)
• Small Business Administration (SBA)
• USDA Rural Development
“For a state that is hoping to increase its manufacturing capacity and lure new businesses, the forest products crisis is a serious issue that has grabbed the attention of the top levels of government and industry stakeholders,” Gordon said.
“Despite the challenges ahead, Katahdin Cedar Log Homes and Katahdin Forest Products are committed to fulfilling existing orders and obligations with the cedar we currently have in stock.” Gordon said. “Our foundation is the trust we have built over a half century of providing good Maine jobs, fine craftsmanship and environmentally responsible manufacturing in Aroostook County.”
For more information, visit: www.katahdincedarloghomes.com
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