In the woods of central Maine, trees are gaining value by the minute, and lumber producers aren’t waiting a second. They are scrambling to expand production, build new facilities and hire more workers.
Lumber prices soared over sixty percent since early 2017, thanks to a perfect storm that hit Canadian supply. First tree-eating beetles, then forest fires, transportation issues involving a shortage of trucking and rail cars, and finally, last fall, U.S. duties imposed on Canadian lumber that amount to a 20 percent tax on the commodity.
It all adds up to opportunity in the eyes of Jason Brochu, co-president of Pleasant River Lumber, which operates two mills in Maine, employing 300 workers.
“I think with the duties that are in place, that’s given us a level of confidence that we didn’t have before, and with a level playing field, looking ahead, the confidence we’re at, we’re able to expand and produce more lumber,” said Brochu.
The plan, he said, is to invest $20 million in the company over the next two years, increase production by 50 percent and add up to 40 new jobs. A large dirt pit is already forming near the current mill in Dover-Foxcroft, as workers blast open new ground for additional equipment and machinery.
“You’re seeing it throughout the country where mills are expanding, or building new mills, and our industry is starting to grow to meet the increase in the demand,” said Brochu.