Makah to cut ribbon on sawmill

Mill built in partnership with Port Angeles company

NEAH BAY — The Makah Tribe and the Composite Recycling Technology Center of Port Angeles will celebrate the opening of a new sawmill in Neah Bay today, a joint project between the company and the tribe.

A ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. will celebrate the completion of the mill, which was paid for through grant money obtained in partnership with CRTC and the tribe.

The mill has been operating since March, but today’s ceremony marks its official opening with representatives from the company and the Makah Tribal Council.

“We’re getting a lot of local business. We are starting to pick up some companies and customers,” said Jed Johnson, mill manager. “It’s got a lot of potential. The village is very excited. People been talking about this.”

Johnson said the mill currently has only two employees, himself included, but he hopes to add another by the end of the year.

The Makah Tribe has several thousand acres it manages for timber, and the mill allows for additional services like log cutting and kiln drying.

The partnership for the mill came about when CRTC — a non-profit company that manufactures carbon fiber products — started looking for ways to expand into wood products.

The company had been buying logs from the tribe but was looking for a place to mill lumber, CEO David Walter said.

“CRTC is a customer of the tribe,” Walter said. “We take that lumber and we’re going to use that to make a cross-laminated timber panel, which will allow us to build quick-erect structures.”

Founded in 2015, CRTC takes old carbon fiber material that would typically be used on aircraft and repurposes it to make reinforced products like panels for benches and nets.

Walter said the company is working to develop a carbon-reinforced cross-laminated timber panel that can be used for things like housing, with the U.S. military as a potential customer.

In 2022, CRTC partnered with the Makah Tribe and secured a $2 million Small Business Innovation Fund grant from the state Department of Commerce. Walter said construction of the mill cost about $1 million, and the remaining funds were used by CRTC to buy a thermal modification chamber, a large oven-like structure used for treating wood products.

“It allows for a process where we can take the wood, put it in a large chamber and basically burn off all the sugars and the cellulose, drive off all the moisture,” Walter said.

The process will make panels made from Western Hemlock — typically not used for construction panels — usable for construction purposes. CRTC is currently working on expanding its facilities at William R. Fairchild International Airport to accommodate the unit, Walter said.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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