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Auction offers mill restart hope

The auction of Columbus Lumber Co. in Chicago early next week isjust one part of a process aimed at finding new owners who willrestart operations at the industry, the sawmill’s owners saidTuesday.

Co-owners Doug Boykin and Jeff Grierson said the upcomingauction would serve as a measuring stick to gauge interest in thesawmill by a group of potential buyers. He said it is unlikely thesawmill will be sold at the event.

“There is a clear-cut path with interested parties that the bankand we are going down to try to find a buyer, and that is verypositive news,” Grierson said. “It’s not a normal auction. The Bank(of America) is allowing … anybody who thinks they want to buythis place to offer them the opportunity, a stake in the process.What we hope to have at the end of that process is someone to stepforward with a final proposal that suits the bank.”

The auction will take place at 9 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 26, at thelaw offices of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in Chicago.

Boykin said the intent of the process is to sell the sawmill, asa whole, as quickly as possible and prevent a futureliquidation.

“The quicker that happens, the better for our employees,” Boykinsaid. “A lot of our employees have had to move on to otheropportunities, and the longer this goes on the more will have to dothat.”

Columbus Lumber Co. was ordered to close on Sept. 24 by itscreditor, Bank of America, after a long run of financial troublebrought on by the national economy. The lumber industry nationwidehas suffered for almost two years after the housing marketcollapsed, taking lumber prices to near historic lows.

The sawmill stayed afloat during the downturn by adjustingoperations, developing new products and expanding into new markets,but the changes were not enough to overcome economicconditions.

More than 100 employees lost their jobs in the closure.

Since the closure, Grierson and Boykin have negotiated with thebank to arrive at this point.

“Doug and I were very, very heartened when we found out this isthe process the bank is going down, to try to sell it for someoneto run,” Grierson said. “That means we’re able to advert this froma sure-fire liquidation to a considerable hope it will be sold andrun again.”