Fast-Tracked Opportunity at the Stimson Lumber Mill Site (Libby, Montana)
July 27, 2009
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, Kootenai Business Park Industrial District (KBPID), and Lincoln County Commissioners hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Stringer Welding manufacturing plant in Libby, Montana. The plant is being developed at the Stimson Lumber site, which is a part of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site. When fully operational, this $12.7 million facility will employ 200 skilled workers to manufacture steel bridge components for projects throughout the Northwestern United States and parts of Canada. The groundbreaking ceremony capped 7 months of fast-tracked cooperative efforts among the private sector and multiple Federal, State and local agencies, including the US EPA, in order to bring this project to fruition.
Once a thriving mining, logging, and lumber community, Libby, Montana has been hit hard economically over the past several decades as it has dealt with issues of asbestos contamination and the decline of the forest products economy in the United States. Vermiculite mines, which operated for decades, left a legacy of asbestos contamination in various locations in the community. The Libby asbestos site has been on EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List since 2002, and cleanup has been underway since 2000. On June 17, 2009, US EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, declared the first ever national health emergency in Libby, paving the way to provide medical services to the many Libby residents suffering from the effects from the era of asbestos mining.
The groundbreaking ceremony marked the beginning of a new era in Libby. “New jobs and new investment have found their way to northwestern Montana,” began a statement prepared for the event from United States Senator Jon Tester. Paul Rumelhart, Executive Director of KBPID, said that after years of declining employment in the lumber industry and dealing with the hardship of asbestos contamination, and after having a national health emergency declared, the Stinger operation “is something new upon which we can start to build the future."
Governor Brian Schweitzer thanked Springer Welding owner Carl Douglas for bringing this opportunity to Montana and praised them for recognizing the supply of “exceptional, hardworking” folks in the local community. He went on to acknowledge the hard work of the many Federal, state, and local agencies that made this complex project come together in record time. Paul Rumelhart commended EPA Region 8, who “did everything we asked of them and when we asked them, they did what we asked, not next week, not tomorrow, but immediately. They have been Johnny on the spot."
The Stringer Welding facility is the first major tenant in the new Kootenai Business Park. KBPID has been working closely with EPA Region 8, the Economic Development Administration, and the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative to clean up the entire Stimson Superfund site and upgrade the site’s infrastructure to attract businesses to the community. As stated by Paul Rumelhart, “Economic development groups and government agencies must work to provide the infrastructure and the necessary debt financing mechanisms to support private sector development.” The success of the Stinger Welding facility demonstrates that hard work and cooperation can foster the redevelopment and revitalization of formerly contaminated industrial sites.