Cadillac News: Sen. Gary Peters visits Biewer Sawmill in McBain

Peters talks timber industry growth

MCBAIN — Sen. Gary Peters wants to help the timber industry grow, he said.

Peters, who is touring part of the state on his motorcycle, visited Biewer Sawmill in McBain on Thursday afternoon.

 "My goal is to help this industry grow because there are a lot of good-paying Michigan jobs associated with timber,‘ Peters said in an interview with the Cadillac News after his walking tour of the sawmill. Before the tour, Peters talked with industry representatives about attracting labor.

The sawmill is in the middle of a $30 million project to increase capacity.

“It’s state-of-the-art sawmill equipment that’s going to run a lot faster,‘ said Shawn Johnston, general manager of the Biewer sawmills in McBain and Lake City. Because of the increased capacity, the sawmill in McBain plans to hire 17 new people, some of whom are already being brought on board, he said. Production on the new line starts Dec. 3.

"We’re going to be able to increase our production by about 50 percent the first year," Johnston said. "With some additional investment, we could double our production in the upcoming years.‘

But one of the barriers to doubling production is limited access to raw timber.

Peters said he plans to look into the issue after industry representatives told him there are plenty of trees to harvest a lot more timber sustainably from federal lands, but the federal government doesn't have the staff to pull it off and spends half their budget fighting wildfires out west.

"I would never support a harvest that is not sustainable, but the amount of timber they believe could be taken out sustainably is substantially greater than what’s currently being harvested,‘ Peters said when the Cadillac News asked if he anticipated challenges from the environmental lobby. “They’re not asking to push the limit of sustainability, but there’s clearly increases that could occur.‘

Peters had recently worked on the Timber Innovation Act, which is part of the Farm Bill recently passed by the Senate. The act addresses research and development to build wood structures that are higher than three stories.

“Maximizing the economic potential of our state’s abundant natural resources in a sustainable way is vitally important,‘ said Peters, according to a news release after the event. “Increasing the use of wood in building materials has the potential to create quality, environmentally friendly structures while supporting companies like Biewer Lumber that drive our economy and generate job growth.‘

By:  Karen Hopper Usher
Source: Cadillac News