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Officials optimistic of selling Dry Kiln site

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HARRISVILLE — Lewis County officials and representatives from Bestway Enterprises Inc. are optimistic after meeting Friday to discuss sale options for the Harrisville Dry Kiln plant.

“We are hoping to find a turnkey buyer. That’s our goal,” said Andrew T. Porter, spokesman for the Cortland-based company, which operates the mill as HDK Wood Products Inc.

Bestway notified employees last week that the plant, which employs roughly 30 people, will be shutting down at the end of the month.

“We wanted to ensure that local authorities knew what our plans were. We didn’t want any speculation,” said Mr. Porter.

The hourlong meeting was attended by a number of Lewis County legislators, members of the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency and three Bestway representatives.

“The representatives for HDK are definitely cooperative,” said county Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler. “They expressed interest to help with the transition to benefit the community.”

There had been some concern from the community over whether Bestway would simply close the plant and sell off the materials, leaving employees looking for jobs in another industry.

“They certainly have their own interest, as a business, but they demonstrated cooperation and a willingness to find a solution that will help everybody,” said Mr. Virkler.

Mr. Porter admitted there has been some interest from potential buyers, but nothing concrete. He added they will continue to seek input from county officials to ease the situation.

“If you have input, we’ll hear it,” he said.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, offered his assistance in providing state funding to appeal to a potential buyer.

“There’s a coordination of efforts with Senator (Joseph A.) Griffo’s office and my office with the IDA. We’ll try to put an incentive package together,” said Mr. Blankenbush. “We’re going to coordinate efforts to get the mill sold ... keep it local to save these jobs.”

The land the mill is on is leased to Bestway by the IDA.

Paragon Laminated Wood Products, Lakeville, New Brunswick, started up the dry kiln plant in October 1998, and Bestway took over its operation in August 1999. A sawmill was added in 2006.

The closure was cited by Mr. Porter as being a purely financial decision.

Bestway has seven years left on a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement on the mill, according to officials with the Lewis County IDA, which owns the land on which the mill was built and administers the PILOT.

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