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SPI Showcases New Technology

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Standard, CA– The reopening event and tour of the newly upgraded Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) sawmill on Standard Road provided a lesson in efficiency.  SPI employs 3,500 people with 3,000 working in California. The Sonora Mill employs 110 now and will be hiring 10 additional workers. Slightly more than half work the eight hour day shift and the remainder work through the night.

The new equipment (see photos) allows the mill to handle a greater range of log sizes from eight inches up to 48 inches. The finished products range from wood sold directly to Home Depot to some used in a window manufacturing plant that SPI owns. The wood is for shelves, decorative molding, doors, pencils, and woodchips for landscaping.

Mark Luster, Community Relations Manager says, “Pretty much any pencil that you buy is made from Incense Cedar harvested in California. Wood is good.”

The lowest grade of sawdust and scraps are burned onsite in an eight megawatt power plant. The plant creates more power than the mill uses and also heats water that is used in the kilns to dry the wood for two days to two weeks depending of the size and type of wood.

The Sonora Mill was officially closed in August 2008 according to Vice President of Sales and Marketing, George Emmerson because of “lower productivity” when compared with other mills that are further from the forests where the lumber is harvested. In his speech at the opening ceremony he said, “It’s pretty rare rebuilding in this environment and economic times.” Emmerson specifically praised Economic Development Director Larry Cope for his role in facilitating the process.

Representatives on behalf of the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, Tom Berryhill and Jeff Denham were there to commend the company and facility.

The event was attended by approximately 40 people who all received a lengthy tour of the retooled facility. All of the equipment is new and was designed and built onsite by Sierra Pacific Industries. “Employees who work here offer suggestions on how things can be made more efficient,” according to Luster.

The mill has been gathering a six month supply of wood and continues to ramp up production. For video see the myNews video section