Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) One of Missoula County's last remaining lumber mills on Thursday evening announced its plans to close, ending a run that began in 1949.

The mill, located in Seeley Lake, has been a staple of the community for generations and is the area's largest employer. The company announced its plans to close at 5 p.m., making reactions and the impacts of the decision difficult to gather.

County officials weren't immediately available for comment, though one spokesperson said they planned on meeting with Pyramid on Friday and would have more insight at that point. The meeting was held on Friday.

“As everyone at Pyramid knows, the company has been hit very hard by a variety of circumstances that are outside of its control,” the company said in a statement. “Among other problems, labor shortages, lack of housing, unprecedented rising costs, plummeting lumber prices, and the cost of living in Western Montana have crippled Pyramid’s ability to operate.”

Fred Johnson and Oscar Mood founded what would become Pyramid Mountain Lumber in 1949. At the time, timber operations were a large part of the Missoula economy, though nearly all of them have since vanished in recent decades.

Pyramid was among the last lumber operators in the area. Its success has been derived from its focus on product quality, stewardship of Montana’s forests and its employees, the company believes.

It added that its board of directors and its shareholders met in February to discuss the state of the company.

“Pyramid’s management group and the Board of Directors have worked on many of these issues for years to try and find a way to address these difficult issues. Despite their very best efforts, they see no way out of this situation. It's with the heaviest of hearts that the Board of Directors and Shareholders voted unanimously to close the mill and shut down Pyramid’s operations,” the company said.

According to the company, it faced similar challenges in 2000. At the time, Charlie Parke helped the mill continue operations by purchasing a majority of the company's shares.

But in 2007, hard times rose again as lumber prices fell just ahead of the housing crash. Mills began to close across the Pacific Northwest and money was tight, the company stated.

“Very similar circumstances arose in 2015, and the owners took the risk to keep going. However, today’s crisis is much worse than what was experienced in 2000, 2007, and 2015. There is simply no better solution for the Owners than to shut the mill down permanently,” the company said in a statement.

This is a developing story and will be updated.