A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the official opening of Community Smallwood Solutions in Wallowa will most likely happen in October, says plant manager David Hockett. The small mill operation will produce post and poles plus a patented habitat restoration product called ELWd, Engineered Large Woody debris.
Hockett and production manager Matt Gross are ironing out the "bugs" before hiring an initial crew of one or two additional persons in the near future to open the plant located east of the Lions Park in Wallowa.
Hockett anticipates hiring three persons in addition to Gross to operate the plant through the winter, then hiring an additional three more employees by late next spring. The goal is to work four 10-hour days. Two sales persons will also be hired soon to work out of their homes and market the product, something Hockett is now doing.
Community Smallwood Solutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wallowa Resources, a locally based non profit entity which hopes in the future to transfer most of the ownership of the business to private investors.
The goal of the operation is in harmony with the intent of Wallowa Resources which is to utilize underused forest products, create employment and then put the value added structures back into the watershed for environmental purposes. Thinned trees plus down debris on private lands will be major sources of material for the mill. Hockett hopes in the future that the Forest Service will become both a purchaser and supplier of product.
ELWd (pronounced el' wood) has been described as 'tinker toys for adults' and is manufactured wooden pieces that can be constructed of many different sizes and shapes, then installed in streams and riparian areas to prevent erosion. ELWd products have been purchased in the Northwest to prevent erosion following forest fires.
Hockett says that heaters are being installed near work stations to warm employees through the winter. He also said that Dean Himes of Bronson Log Homes is using Community Smallwood Solutions' product to build an onsite office.