• State, federal funds will re-open Rough & Ready

  • Southern Oregon's withered timber industry received a boost Friday when Gov. John Kitzhaber announced that Rough & Ready Lumber Co. in Cave Junction would reopen with the help of $5 million in tax credits and loans.
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  • Southern Oregon's withered timber industry received a boost Friday when Gov. John Kitzhaber announced that Rough & Ready Lumber Co. in Cave Junction would reopen with the help of $5 million in tax credits and loans.
    The mill closed in April 2013, succumbing to a lack of timber and the need for money to upgrade equipment.
    Kitzhaber said the company will receive a $1 million loan from the state and expressed optimism that the federal government could open up local forests for limited thinning operations.
    "Rough & Ready will be up and running by this summer," Kitzhaber said.
    at a news conference at Cascade Wood Products in White City.
    Rough & Ready's reopening and rehiring of 67 workers is also good news for Cascade Wood Products, which processes much of the lumber from the Cave Junction mill.
    Jennifer and Link Phillippi, owners of Rough & Ready, said they were "shell-shocked" at the closure, saying it has been an emotional roller coaster over the past year for them and their workers.
    "We are really relieved to bring back Rough & Ready to those families who keep our community vital," Jennifer Phillippi said.
    She said the mill will take advantage of $4 million in federal New Market Tax Credits to help strengthen the company's financial situation.
    The Phillippis said that as soon as the mill closure was announced, Kitzhaber's team stepped forward to find solutions to reopen it.
    The mill has found a supply of logs from private timber owners, but the Phillippis hope that the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service will finally open up national forests.
    "There is tremendous pressure to do something," Jennifer Phillippi said. "People in Washington are paying attention to the situation in Oregon."
    Many counties that were once heavily dependent on timber revenues continue to have high unemployment rates, and local governments have found their tax bases drying up because a federal timber revenue program has been sharply curtailed.
    George McKinley, with the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative, said he's identified 28 million board feet in Southern Oregon and Northern California forests that could be harvested annually to supply Rough & Ready over a 20-year period.
    McKinley said he's mapped out an area within a roughly two-hour drive radius by truck from Rough & Ready that could be harvested.
    The forest restoration program seeks to find a balance between restoration, habitat conservation, old-tree protection and the use of existing roads that can access a long-term supply of timber.
    McKinley said most of the forests he's identified are in Josephine and Jackson counties, extending into the Cascades.
    "But we don't have any guaranteed supply from the (federal) agencies," he said.
    The $1 million loan will provide operating capital while Rough & Ready modernizes its mill. The package includes a $250,000 loan with a 5-year term. The remainder of the loan would be forgivable if the company creates at least 60 new full-time jobs.
    Bettina von Hagen of Ecotrust said they joined the governor's office in putting together the package that includes $4 million in state and federal new market tax credits purchased by JP Morgan Chase, & Co., and a $1 million loan from Business Oregon. New market tax credits are designed to benefit disadvantaged communities.
    Ecotrust, a Portland-based organization that works to create environmentally friendly economic development, has helped put together similar packages for mill renovations in John Day and Dillard, she added.
    "Many forests in the vicinity of this mill are in need of thinning, reducing overcrowding of trees, reducing the danger of fire and disease," she said. "We also think this is an important component of community health."
    Kitzhaber's team worked with Business Oregon, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Ecotrust and the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative to help the Phillippis reopen their business.
    "This one was a no-brainer," Kitzhaber said. "They already had the infrastructure in place."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.
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