Sawmill opens on Garland Prairie Road in Williams

Newpac Fibre, LLC to begin operation in coming month, looking to fill 10-12 positions immediately and to eventually employ as many as 40 people

Newpac CEO Chris Stephan unloads logs at the mill site July 21. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Newpac CEO Chris Stephan unloads logs at the mill site July 21. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - A new sawmill is set to begin operations in Williams within the next month, which will create as many as 40 jobs in the near future.

Newpac Fibre, LLC has been looking at options for a sawmill in northern Arizona for more than 18 months. In October 2013, the company bought 25 acres of land at 325 S. Garland Prairie Road, obtained building permits and started initial site preparation.

Newpac CEO Chris Stephan said he decided to come to Williams because the forest in the area was well suited to his area of expertise.

"The challenges that have been stated here in this wood basket forest are that this is low value product and you have to haul it a long ways," Stephan said. "We have considerable experience in transporting low value products far distances. We have the expertise to meet the challenges of this wood basket."

Low value products in this area include smaller sized trees that can't be made into lumber and the byproducts from sawmilling. The sawmill will use this type of material to produce items like wood chips, sawdust, and bark for landscape, animal bedding, mulch, soils and renewable energy products for markets both regionally and abroad.

Newpac is collaborating with Perkins Timber Harvesting in Williams and has chosen RDO Equipment in Flagstaff as its mobile equipment supplier.

Although Newpac's facility will take a few months to develop, the company will work with an existing mill in close proximity to the Newpac site in order to start operations within the next month.

"We need to get going, there's a mill there that is operating, and we can bring our expertise to that and to improve it and to satisfy our customers' demands and our customers' needs while we build out on our site there at 325," Stephan said. "We want to hire people now, we want to start taking wood now, and we want to start moving our lumber to our customers."

Newpac's Garland Prairie site has some existing buildings that the company has already started renovating, but eventually Newpac officials hope to fully utilize the 25-acre site.

The company is working on updating the existing infrastructure to accommodate the equipment that the mill will require, and the required fire suppression system is already in place.

"So we have the ability to quickly build out," Stephan said.

While Williams is under a building permit freeze with the current level four water restrictions, the sawmill is allowed to proceed because it had filed permits before the water crisis occurred and because it will haul water into a tank, and so will not use any of the city's water supply.

The company has an existing raw material supply agreement and is also looking for additional supplies from public and private lands. Currently, Newpac is not affiliated with the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), the largest stewardship contract in Forest Service history, which spans 2.4 million acres within the Kaibab, Coconino, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests. However, Stephan did not rule out potentially working with the 4FRI project in the future.

"We have the ability to take 4FRI wood immediately," he said.

On March 13, Good Earth Power AZ, LLC announced plans to develop a fiber processing site for 4FRI task orders in Williams. Lori Martinek, a spokeswoman for Good Earth Power, said in an email on Friday that she had nothing new to report about the Williams site, although she said she hoped to have some news in the coming weeks.

Along with Stephan, Newpac's manufacturing supervisor and human resources director will come from Minnesota. However, Stephan said he hopes to fill the remaining positions locally. The jobs will include office work, manual labor, equipment operation and mechanical work.

"Livable wage jobs here that are non tourism based we see as extremely important," Stephan said. "We are strongly looking to find our employee base here locally, regionally as well as with a considerable effort to employ returning veterans."

Mayor John Moore said the sawmill is a positive development for Williams.

"It's going to add income to the city, it's going to add jobs to the city, it's going to add citizens to the city," Moore said. "It's going to be a good viable project we hope."

City Manager Brandon Buchanan agreed.

"We're very excited to increase the lumber industry in Williams," Buchanan said. "We're excited for the economic impact it's going to have and the jobs it's going to bring and the diversification of the economy, so all around we're excited and looking forward to it."

More information about the sawmill, including job openings, is available at www.newpacfibre.com.

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