Sawmill closure could have lasting effects on Hill City community, lumber industry

Jim Neiman of Rushmore Forest Products says that more sawmills and lumber companies could shut down if timber sales in the Black Hills aren't met in the future.

HILL CITY, S.D. — For a small town community like Hill City, the closure of a business like Rushmore Forest Products, could have lasting effects.

“This could have a devastating effect,” said Rushmore Forest Products President and CEO, Jim Neiman.

The sawmill is closing after 53 years of business in the small Black Hills community, leaving 120 people without jobs.

But Neiman says the company, even with the closure, isn’t out of the woods yet.

“Our worry now is that the forest service put up the allowable cuts so we can maintain the two existing mills and not lose another mill,” Neiman said. “We’re not home free by closing this mill.”

The closure comes a day before the U.S. Forest Service released it’s official General Technical Report, which says that the current harvest rate doesn’t support a sustainable timber program.

Hill City Sawmill 8

Also, add in a small community with a population of about 1,000.

The loss of those workers affecting businesses inside the city, ones that rely on timber industry workers year-round.

“It’s going to be impacting our schools, we’ll lose children maybe,” said Cindy Houska, a Manager at the Hill City Cafe. “It is more than 120 jobs, we have loggers. There’s a lot of people here that live in hill city that are logging and driving the logging trucks that it will impact too. It’s terrible.”

Hill city mayor Kathy Skorzekski releasing a statement, saying:

“It has been through family generations and we are not just losing a business, we are losing a member of our Hill City family.”

Gov. Kristi noem also released a statement:

“Many of our Black Hills communities rely on the resources that the national forest provides. I will continue to work with our congressional delegation to improve the management of the Black Hills National Forest.”

Neiman says he’s reached out to Noem, and is looking for anyway they can help their employees stay on their feet.

“She’s reached out to the Department of Labor,” Neiman said. “They’re hopefully down there today helping out so we can see whatever assistance that we can provide.”

The closure of a key business in hill city that leaves questions and concerns.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Business, Local News, South Dakota News