There is plenty to be said for the effort that Lewis County officials are making to see that a dry kiln plant in Harrisville remains operational.
Bestway Enterprises Inc. in Cortland runs the dry kiln as HDK Wood Products. Representatives of the company said the numbers do not add up and they must shut down the plant by the end of July.
This is terrible news for the nearly 30 people who work there. If there is one thing that the north country does not need, its more unemployment.
Therefore, county officials have pledged to find a buyer before equipment is removed from the local plant. They want to preserve those jobs and ensure the dry kiln keeps running.
Were going to do our very best to integrate ourselves into the equation to find a buyer for the place, Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, said at a special legislative session July 16. He added that the economic impact of the closure would be substantial for a little place like Harrisville.
HDK Wood Products buys lumber and steam-dries it in its kilns. The lumber is run through the plants planer and then sold to manufacturers for different uses.
The determination of county officials to be a part of the solution is critical. They have a variety of resources at their disposal, and perhaps this will help prevent HDK Wood Products from shutting its doors for good.
Representatives of Lewis County contributing to this task, however, must recognize that the operators of the dry kiln believe that it cannot sustain itself.
They reviewed the relevant figures and were assisted by an outside consultant before determining that the plant must be closed. They are the ones who know the plant and its market inside and out. So its hard to argue that people who dont run a similar business understand how to keep it running better than those who own it.
What do county officials see in the plant that would keep it afloat that representatives of its parent company missed? How could a new owner resolve the financial difficulties impacting the facility better than its current owners?
This is not a criticism of the intention on the part of county officials to keep a good business in town. Its commendable that theyre willing to make the effort to keep this plant open and maintain the nearly 30 jobs.
But officials must find the right approach to this situation. Are they prepared to conduct the appropriate amount of research necessary to determine if there is still a market for the dry kiln?
Additional thought should go in to identifying an alternative use of the business that would prove more viable. If its function as a dry kiln plant has been found to be no longer practical, new markets are needed to keep it going.
We would hate to see the county invest time and financial resources into an endeavor that is doomed to fail. If those who run the plant believe its come to the end of the line, what more can be done?
The hearts of county officials who want to do something positive here are in the right place. They have the best interests in mind of all those involved, and theyre willing to take up the task of keeping the business running.
But they must know their limits in propping up a business in decline. In so doing, they must be prepared to discuss and recommend alternative uses for the plant so the new owners can find a niche that will work in the long run.