Emerald Forest Products in Emmett has closed its lumber operation and laid off 50 people. The owner is looking for a buyer.
The company, which began in 2010 with help $4 million in federal economic-stimulus money, was undercapitalized, said Dick Vinson, who ran the mill and owned it with partners. He said he put $1.8 million into the mill in the last 18 months trying to save it, but couldn't make it work.
Employees were not paid Friday, their regular payday. Vinson said their checks would be available after 3 p.m. Wednesday at the plant.
Vinson said one company has already come to the mill to consider buying it. He said another company is expected to be there on Thursday. He would not say who the companies are.
Vinson opened the mill on 22 acres that had once been part of the site of a Boise Cascade sawmill that closed.
The mill struggled. Vinson told the Idaho Statesman last year that he opened it before it was ready, partly because logs that had been stored behind the plant for nearly three years were starting to rot. He said the mill lacked some equipment, and other equipment wasn't working properly.
Vinson closed the mill in April 2011 with plans to reopen four months later. But by October 2011, the plant was in foreclosure.
Emerald filed for bankruptcy in January 2012. The plant was reopened in July 2012 and continued operating under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which allows businesses to reorganize free from creditors' lawsuits.
John Armstrong, who lives near Emmett, said he was one of the employees who was put out of work. He came to Emmett from Reno and took a job at the plant helping prepare lumber for shipping.
Company officials told employees Thursday morning that the mill would be shutting down, Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the plant appeared to be busy right up to when it stopped operations.
Armstrong said he has taken another job in Boise selling construction materials. "I've got bills to pay," he said.
Vinson had taken out a $1.9 million bank loan from Western Capital Bank in Boise, now Northwest Bank. Ninety percent of the loan is backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vinson said. Vinson also owed $600,000 to creditors.
Under an agreement with the bank, Vinson said he has about 110 days to try to sell the property.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408