Prairie City sawmill reopens in July, bringing 50 new jobs
PRAIRIE CITY – Big news out of Prairie City today. Mayor Jim Hamsher sent the Elkhorn Media Group newsroom a press release issued by Prairie Wood Products. Find the body of the release in its entirety below:
(Press Release from Prairie Wood Products)
Prairie Wood Products, a division of DR Johnson Lumber Company, will reopen its sawmill in Grant County, Oregon. The sawmill will reopen in early July and hire around 50 employees, bringing much-needed jobs back to Eastern Oregon. The mill previously operated for 30 years before closing due to economic hardship brought on by the Great Recession.
“We have deep roots here and we are excited about reopening the mill, bringing back jobs and once again supporting the Grant County community,” said Kyle Westbrooks, business development manager for Prairie Wood Products and DR Johnson. “People come up to me in the grocery store and tell me stories about my grandfather and how they are connected to the mill. So, this is very personal for us.”
Prairie Wood Products will host a job fair at Chester’s Markets in John Day on Monday, June 13, and Tuesday, June 14, from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They are looking to fill a variety of jobs, from maintenance and production positions to an HR manager. The wages are highly competitive, and they are also offering a strong benefits package.
“Prairie Wood Products reopening is great news for Eastern Oregon,” said Jim Hamsher, mayor of Prairie City and Grant County commissioner. “Like so many others in the area, one of my first jobs was working at Prairie Wood Products. These jobs are offering some of the highest family wages in the community and will provide a boost to the local economy.”
Prairie Wood Products was purchased in 1976 by Don (D.R.) Johnson. He expanded the mill’s capacity by building a computerized stud mill in 1981 and adding the production of electricity in the CoGen facility in the late 80s. Prairie Wood Products operated successfully for more than 30 years, employing over 100 people for two different shifts. In 2008, as the housing market crashed and led to diminished timber sales, the mill was forced to close. D.R. passed in 2010, and his daughter, Jodi Westbrooks, took over as president in late 2021.
“The well-being of Oregon’s signature forest products industry is a must, both to generate rural private-sector jobs and to protect our public lands from wildfires threatening communities throughout our state,” said U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. “I welcome today’s announcement both for Grant County and the collaborative efforts I have long championed that provide opportunities for local jobs and healthy landscapes.”
Prairie Wood Products was also heavily involved in Oregon OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which D.R. was very proud of. SHARP encourages employers to become self-sufficient in managing workplace safety and health issues. This is something that Prairie Wood would like to become involved with again as they reopen.
About DR Johnson Lumber Company
D.R. Johnson Lumber is a second-generation, family-owned sawmill in Riddle, Oregon. DR Johnson has been producing Douglas fir lumber for more than 70 years. For more information, visit www.drjlumber.com.