Montana gets federal grant to retrain laid off lumber workers

A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor is providing $2 million to the State of Montana to provide workforce retraining and other services to lumber workers losing their jobs because of the closures of two lumber companies in western Montana.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided the Montana Department of Labor and Industry with the first disbursement of $800,000 on Monday, the governor’s office said, to help workers affected by the pending closures of Pyramid Mountain Lumber, the largest employer in Seeley Lake, and Roseburg Forest Products in Missoula.

“For over a century, the timber industry has been an integral part of the Montana economy, and the loss of these companies is felt across our state,” said Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Sarah Swanson. “Empowering Montanans through work and opportunity is our work at DLI, and with these funds we will help every impacted worker in the region leverage their Montana work ethic, skill up, and reenter the workforce in high wage, high skilled jobs.”

The Missoulian reported last week that Pyramid Mountain Lumber had run its last logs through its sawmill last week, and the company was set to lose 10 employees. Between Pyramid and Roseburg, according to the Missoulian, more than 250 people will be laid off by the two companies this year.

The money will come through the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Dislocated Worker Grant program, which helps dislocated workers and others by utilizing local organizations to provide job training, career services, and transitional help so workers can find new jobs.

Counties that are eligible to access money from the grant include Missoula, Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, Powell and Sanders. The Blackfeet and Flathead reservations can also utilize the funds.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry said it would work with local organizations to develop a plan for the timber workers to get them into high-demand jobs in western Montana. In April, the department launched a skills-matching dashboard so affected workers could match their skills to other jobs.

“Thanks to the work of Commissioner Swanson and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, our lumber industry professionals facing unemployment due to recent mill closures will have more resources to get back on their feet and in a career,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a statement. “Our administration will continue to secure support for Montanans and industries in need.”