Lumber mill on state leaders’ tour

Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty walks past a saw blade during a Thursday tour of Intermountain Resources Mill, the state’s largest lumber mill, in Montrose.

It’s about jobs and the economy.

That, at least, was the message leaders of the Colorado House were told Thursday as they brought their Building a Better Colorado statewide tour through Mesa and Montrose counties.

“The point of going around the state is to get specific ideas,” said House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “We can talk about reducing regulations, we can talk about tax policies that are affecting job creation. But only when we go out and meet with people one on one and have these small group meetings do you actually get down to these concrete examples.”

So far, McNulty, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs, and other GOP members of the House have learned about a dairy farmer who’s had permitting troubles to expand his business, specific oil and gas regulations that are hindering drilling and a Montrose lumber mill that wants to sell more products in the state.

Dallas Wright, plant manager at the Intermountain Resources Mill in Montrose, told lawmakers Thursday afternoon that only about 7 percent of the products his mill produces are sold in Colorado, even though it is one of the largest mills in the Rocky Mountains.

The mill is one of the few places in the state that’s taking Colorado trees killed by pine beetles. But because some Colorado counties’ building codes don’t allow builders to use such wood, it limits the market, he said.

“The building community doesn’t recognize this as an approved building material,” said Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who joined that part of the GOP tour. “They’re ignoring the fact that it is a Colorado product and it is a premium product.”

The mill’s 100 workers receive about 25 daily loads of pine beetle wood from the U.S. Forest Service.

If Wright could get more trees, and more builders to use them, he could add a second shift and hire up to 80 new workers, he said.

“I think we got a bill, Don,” McNulty told Coram.

At a town hall meeting at Colorado Mesa University earlier in the day, which attracted more lawmakers than area residents, McNulty said Republicans plan to continue to trim state spending as much as possible.

Legislative budget writers from both sides of the political aisle have said they expect to have to trim next year’s spending plan by about $600 million.


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