Jim C. Hamer Companies, based in Kenova, purchased the W.M. Cramer Lumber Company facility at Stillwell a little more than a month ago. The company plans to re-open the sawmill at the site, which has been closed for several years. As envisioned by company managers, a refurbished and expanded mill at Stillwell will provide at least 20 new jobs – but no firm date has been established for the mill re-opening.
Hamer Marlinton site manager Damien Elliot discussed the company’s plans.
“Hopefully, we’re going to fire the mill up,” he said. “I don’t know how long of a timetable it is for that. That is the vision, however, it does take money.”
Hamer currently operates mills at Curtin, Madison, Mt. Hope, Rachel and Prestonburg; and dry kilns at Curtin, Kenova, Elkins – and the company’s new location in Marlinton.
“At the present, we’re receiving lumber from other locations and drying it,” said Elliot. “We’re going to get the ball rolling that way, which is good, because they needed more kiln capacity. Then, moving forward, deciding what to retro-fit and what existing equipment we can use, we’re going to attempt to fire the mill up at some point.”
Elliot hopes the mill can be opened as early as next June.
“There is no timeline,” he said. “I believe the project will be somewhere between, ‘what can you do to get it going as quick as possible?’ versus ‘what can you do to make it as nice as possible?’ My estimate is by June of next year, hopefully. But that’s purely an estimate.”
Some of the aging mill equipment will need to be replaced.
“Some of it is serviceable and some of it’s not,” said Elliot. “We’ll be replacing the trimmers, for sure. The headsaw possibly will be serviceable. We’ll be removing the de-barker, it will definitely be changed. We’ll be adding another line. So, there’s some things we will use and some things that we won’t. The first part of the process is figuring out what we can use and what we need new.”
Hamer plans to increase the mill’s output by adding a second processing line.
“Essentially, you’re going to end up with a whole, entire new side,” said Elliot. “You’re going to have another new line of equipment – another chipper, another saw. So, it’s a pretty major project.”
The company is currently seeking two laborers, but 20 more workers will be needed when the mill comes online.
“Right now, we need two laborers,” said Elliot. “In the future, there may be a truck driver job that opens up before the mill opens up, and maybe a mechanic job between now and then. Once the mill opens, there will be a plethora of different types of jobs. I think there will be about 34 total jobs, which will be 20 more than what we have now.”
In addition to 20 new jobs with Hamer, Elliot estimated an additional 15 jobs will be created in the community.
“Say Burns Motor Freight adds on a truck driver for hauling chips and bark, or somebody who’s in the community who’s a logger,” he said. “I hope it will add several jobs in the community. I think it’s going to be a financial benefit for the entire county. I had a guy here yesterday who is a salesman – they’re starting to make the sales calls. He went uptown and ate lunch on his way out of town. Just small things like that. You’re going to end up getting more business in town, just from people being here.”
When Hamer took over Cramer’s facility, it hired all of Cramer’s employees that wanted to stay on with the new company.
“They took on everybody who wanted to stay and I feel that they treated them fair,” said Elliot.
Jim C. Hamer founded Jim C. Hamer Companies in 1976. Since then, four generations of the Hamer family have helped manage the company, which produces lumber and wood pellets. Much of Hamer’s lumber is exported to China, Spain and Italy. The company owns and manages thousands of acres of forestland in the eastern United States and has been honored by state and national organizations for its forestry programs. For more information, see jimchamer.com.