QXMC, the Klahoose development corporation, recently acquired a new operation. Kevin Peacey, who ran the Klahoose mill before he became Chief in 2017, will now be overseeing operations.
“As of September 1st, QXMC has taken over the mill and has leased the land here from the band. We have three employees right now, (myself), J. R. Harry and Tim. In the near future, which is coming up pretty quick, we’re going to probably employ three or four more people. Phase three power is coming into the mill, here in Squirrel Cove, and we’ve got four more machines coming in: an edger, a kiln, a TNG machine, and a big chop saw machine. Everything will be run off phase three, as much as we can get here,” he explained.
“We have a lot of good plans that are going to happen: building cabins for the Gorge; up at our coastal adventure resort in Humphrey; cabins going to be built on our new campsite over by the Squirrel Cove store; cabins up the hill by the fish hatchery and some cabins here in the village because of the housing shortage.”
As Peacey was giving me a tour of the mill, he pointed to some of the neatly stacked piles of lumber.
“There’s a gazebo being built down at our dock and this is part of the order for the gazebo. This here will be decks for the cabins that are being built for the Gorge.”
“We have a lot going on in the next year to year and a half, and we’re all excited. That’s why QXMC took over.”
“We’ve still got a little bit of hiccups here and there, but we’re getting it all sorted out, and hopefully by next year we’re going to have everything all in place and ready to go.”
“We’re not in competition with the other mills. We have our own thing that we’re doing, and we’re not trying to take jobs away or put other mills down. I just want to make that clear, we have no intention of that.”
CC: you will be selling to the public?
KP: “Yes, we’ll be selling to the public, but not in a big way like the other mills because we have so much work to do for all of our businesses on the island and up the coast.”
We were sitting in the sawmill and the distinct aroma of cedar hung in the air, but this is not the only tree species that grows on the island.
CC: In your ad, you specifically mentioned cedar, which is what I’m seeing in front of me. Do you want to talk to me a little bit about the cedar and also about the fir and hemlock and anything else that you happen to be cutting?
KP: “Hemlock hasn’t been a big thing for us. There’s another mill on the other side of the island that cuts hemlock. When I was running the mill, it was almost 90% cedar that people bought and about 10% fir. We have to mill a lot of cedar because it goes very fast. We do have a lot of fir coming in the next few weeks, once we get our permit signed over at the campsite.”
“The cedar is also from the island. We have our own woodlot and also the partnership with the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative. We’d like to keep it on the island as much as possible. That gives us a bonus and we don’t have to pay a higher price than any other place you buy logs from, which is a good advantage.”
He pointed at the driveway, “We have a barge of a blue chip coming in to compact, so we don’t have any mud in this area and in the back area. It makes it easier on the machine running around instead of sinking in the mud.”
CC: When did the mill first begin operations?
KP: “In the past, it employed five people. I think I started running the mill in 2012, and then I became the chief in 2017. We had other guys running the mill since then.”
CCL When was the mill closed?
KP: “I believe it closed down from 2019 to 2023.”
CC: Were you working in mills or in the forest before this mill?
KP: “I wasn’t. My dad was in forestry. My grandfather was in forestry. I’ve been in construction for over 20 years and when the opportunity came up for a mill, I jumped on it right away. I’m a hands-on person. I can learn very fast and that’s what I did here. I’m proud that I took that chance and jumped on it.”
CC: Is there anything you would like to add?
KP: “I’m really happy with the work crew that we have right now and the support that we have from QXMC. I just really feel in my zone of working here and hoping that everything goes great in the next year.”
Top image credit: the Peterson Swing Blade mill – Roy L Hales photo
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