Priest River Loses Major Employer

PRIEST RIVER, Idaho — One of Priest River’s largest employers is closing the doors, putting more than 200 people out of work.

JD Lumber has been in business for more than 20 years, but the mill was recently bought by a local competitor.

The news is not only affecting employees. Other businesses say they’re going to feel the loss as well.

JD Lumber made the announcement on Friday. Employees here say they were surprised. They expected layoffs because they say the past few months have been slow, but they never anticipated a permanent closure.

For the past four decades, millwright Dink Roop has worked hard inside every mill in town. On Friday, he arrived for his shift at JD Lumber, like any normal day.

“I got here after the meeting was over and they said Roop, Riley Creek bought us out, gonna shut us down, tear it down no more saw mill,” Roop said.

Roop received the official letter Tuesday morning. His last day, along with 200 or so other employees will be October third.

“Well, there’s a lot of people who live here, work here and there’s very few places for them to go,” Roop said. “Used to be there was a saw mill behind every bush in this county. There aint’ anymore.”

JD Lumber did not return calls for comment, but the company is quoted in the local paper saying a poor market for finished lumber persuaded them to accept an offer from Riley Creek Lumber to purchase their mill. The agreement includes the property, sawmill plant and equipment. It’s not clear what Riley Creek plans to do with the property.

“Pretty big shock. I mean you’re talking about a major employer here in this town,” Napa manager Kraig Lewis said.

Lewis’ Napa store is just down the street from JD Lumber, and the mill is his biggest customer.

“Every single day, seven days a week, all their employees and the millwrights are here everyday. We get calls from them constantly,” Lewis said.

No mill means no business, and no money. Even so, it’s about much more.

“I’ve had a few guys in here already, just in shock, they don’t know what they’re going to do. Like I said a lot of these guys have done this their whole life so, it’s been a life long thing for them,” Lewis said.

Roop is already looking for a new job. No retirement for him, even at the age of 68.

“I need to work,” Roop said. “Everyone needs to work.”