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Dry Kiln auction brings in $2 million

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HARRISVILLE — Despite the best efforts to secure a buyer who would keep the wood products plant whole and operational, Saturday’s auction at Harrisville Dry Kiln left the once bustling facility gutted.

“When a facility closes like that, it hurts many people. It hurts the people employed there, the businesses within the community they normally support by purchasing local products — it’s a sad thing,” said Frank J. Pace, senior planner with Lewis County Department of Economic Development and Planning.

The overall package, which operated as HDK Wood Products Inc., was assessed at $8 million, according to Chuck Lepinski, president of auctioning company LPS Equipment and Acquisition Co., Tennessee. The auction brought in $2 million for Bestway Enterprises Inc., the company that operated the facility at 8023 Washington St. Excess lumber inventory and the real estate package of about 40.9 acres, including the planer mill building, lumber sheds and office building, did not see a sufficient bid and will go up for sale.

The mill was operated by Cortland-based Bestway until July, when it was announced the plant would close. Nearly 30 employees lost their jobs. The closure was categorized as purely financial. According to Bestway spokesman, Andrew T. Porter, the company wanted to focus on its core facilities.

Throughout the summer and fall, Bestway worked with local and state officials to try to secure a turnkey buyer; those efforts were unsuccessful.

“We tried hard to market it and find someone to buy it intact,” said Lewis County Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville. “I don’t know if people really know how hard we worked to keep it there.”

Mr. Hathway was town of Harrisville supervisor in 1995. At the time, Harrisville and Lewis County chose to work through the Industrial Development Agency to bring the plant to Harrisville.

“We were really proud to have it. It’s kind of disheartening to see ... it leaving, after all these years when you were a part of it coming in,” Mr. Hathway said.

Mr. Porter claimed he had been at the mill “two to three times a week, showing it” in the past month, but he suspected many parties were waiting for the auction.

“Today was the drop-dead date. Obviously there’s a fair amount of decision-making that goes into it before anyone’s going to make a bid,” Mr. Porter said.

The auction opened at roughly 10 a.m. The majority of items were secured by Farrel Jourdan of Badger Precision Cut-Stock Inc.

“We have a saw mill and we’re putting up another one,” said Mr. Jourdan after bidding on the de-barker in the early morning.

Later, he told Mr. Pace, “I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m happy for my gain.”

Mr. Jourdan’s company is located in Ogema, Wis., which has a population of about 14,000 people, and he said the mill supports a lot. He also took the chipper and a number of other items in the auction.

Throughout the day the mill was stripped piece by piece, occasionally by the bundle. The auction finished around 5 p.m.


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