Work crews are putting the finishing touches on the much-anticipated SPI Standard Mill retrofit that is expected to bring 130 new jobs to Sonora.
Sierra Pacific Industries announced last year a plan to upgrade and reopen the lumber mill in mid-June. Workers were laid off after the plant closed in 2009, when the specific types of lumber processed at the mill became in short supply.
About 60 people have already been hired to work on construction projects at the mill, which will open this month, according to SPI Spokesman Mark Pawlicki.
The company plans to hire about 70 additional employees in the next few weeks as the mill begins to ramp up production. Pawlicki said the plant won’t be producing lumber at full capacity until July.
“It won’t be an instant on and off switch,” he said. “It takes time to get things up and running.”
He said the mill is still looking to hire local people for specialty jobs like mechanics, millwrights and saw filers.
“They want them all hired and trained when they start processing logs,” said Tuolumne County Economic Development Director Larry Cope.
He said workers have spent the past two months getting permits in line, building new structures and installing modern equipment.
The new mill will be far more efficient than the old one once the retrofit has been completed, he said. The plant will cut a wider variety of logs and use discarded wood to generate power to run the machinery.
“All that stuff that was thrown into the landfill can now be used to produce power,” Cope said.
The mill will produce lumber products ranging from standard 2- by 4-inch pine boards to delicate indoor molding made from cedar. The processed lumber will be sold primarily on the west coast.
Pawlicki said that people interested in job openings at the mill can visit Sierra Pacific’s website: www.spi-ind.com/html/spi_opportunities.cfm