Sierra Town Takes Big Hit--150 Jobs Lost

Lumber Mill in Quincy
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The recession just deepened for a small Sierra community today. A major employer shut down half its operation.

Sierra Pacific Industries closed its small log mill in the Plumas County town of Quincy, putting 150 people out of work. A big hit for a community of 5,000. The last thing a small community needs in this economic climate and loss of those paychecks is only the beginning of the impact.

The recession had already delivered some familiar body blows in Quincy. State government is in a continual budgetary crisis and, as elsewhere, the stalling of the housing market has slowed the construction industry and decreased demand for lumber.

"We had a thriving construction industry up until the last year, says Delaine Fragnoli, the managing editor of Feather Publishing which produces local newspapers for area communities. "

A lot of it centered around second homes and vacation home and that has disappeared for us. We have quite a number of small non-profits up who got some of their funding through voter approved bonds and until this week the state had frozen those."

Then today, Sierra Pacific Industries closed its small log mill, half its local operation. The loss of 150 jobs not only hurts. In a small town it's also personal. Those aren't just numbers they're neighbors.

"It's your neighbor, your spouse, your best friend, their grandfather. Everybody knows somebody who is being laid off." says local educator Dennis Bailey-Fougnier.

Bailey-Fougnier is student services director for Feathe River College which is now scrambling to offer retraining to the displaced workers for other jobs, But where will those jobs come from? Unemployment in Plumas County already stands at 20 percent.

And that's just the beginning of the story. The impact of the loss of those 150 jobs will reach far beyond the families directly affected.

"That doesn't include the other jobs associated with that 150 that aren't being counted," says Valierie Nellor, who with her husband owns a local lodging business. "And there's going to be a trickle down effect."

"And that's going to have an impact on virtually every business," adds businessman Ken George, who owns a local restaurant. "It's going to have a major impact on the school district that's already under severe stress."

"Those people that are losing their jobs have health insurance," says Fragnoli. "So, that's going to impact rural health care which is already on the border."

In other words, virtually all aspects of life in a rural town.

They've set up a local recovery group and there's talk of diversifying the economy. Those are long term solutions. There appears to be no immediate cure. It's a lose, lose situation.

"For everybody<" says Fragnoli. "It's a lose, lose, lose, lose. The implication are just going to get more and more and ultimately I think the people of California and the nation lose."

That may not be as much of an exaggeration as it might sound. The mill that closed today had a very special history. It was the result of an unlikely effort that brought environmentalists and loggers together, finding common ground for an approach to forest management that promised to serve as a model for the rest of the West.
I
n effect that effort also closed today, perhaps for good.

The tale of how that happened pits towns people against outside interests, even environmentalists against environmentalists.

That report tomorrow.