Wagner Lumber Holds Groundbreaking for New Mill

Published 08/12 2014 04:19PM

Updated 08/12 2014 05:25PM

Wagner Lumber in Owego is preparing to be the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes over the next year.

The lumber company held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday for its new 80,000 square foot saw mill. It replaces a 60,000 square foot structure that burned down in February.

President Les Wagner, who founded the company in 1973, said the new mill will cost over $10 million with insurance covering about 2/3 of the price tag.

Vice President Steve Schaeffer, who joined Wagner in 1976, said the company was able to retain the 45 workers affected by transferring them to its two other mills in Cayuta and Nineveh.

"It's a tremendous sacrifice on their part. But I think it's an indication of how much they're looking forward to coming back here and saving their jobs," said Schaeffer.

Schaeffer said the new mill will use newer technology allowing it to increase production from 20 to 30 truckloads of lumber per day.

Wagner, who sold the company to Buffalo area based Baillie Lumber several years ago, says he had originally planned to retire on August 1 of this year, but decided to stay on to guide the resurrection of the saw mill.

"This is like a blank sheet of paper. I and the other key production people have gotten together and designed the mill, And we've designed what we've always dreamed about. It's a lot of hard work and a lot of planning but it's going to be a fun project," said Wagner.

Wagner said he hopes to have the new mill fully operational, and the employees back working there, by next March.

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