Melco Lumber near Big Otter has been closed

By Bob Weaver

One of the largest saw and planing mills in the region has been closed by the owners because of a poor business climate.

Melco Lumber, located on Rt. 16 just north of Big Otter, a short distance from the Clay-Calhoun line, has been in operation since 1993.

Fifteen employees and four workers in a logging crew have lost their jobs, according to office manager Marcia Freeland.

Company owners from Pennsylvania advised the employees last week that the operation is shutting down.

"It's a shock to all of us," said Marcia Freeland, "They walked in and told us."

Company reps said the lumber market is in a critical slump because of China selling the product at a much cheaper rate and the low number of housing starts in the US.

"The company said they are either going in the hole or barely able to break even," said Freeland.

"We seem to mostly be the victim of the globalized market," she said.

The business was launched for the company in 1993 by Les Freeland, a Roane County native.

The loss of jobs adds to tens of thousands already gone in West Virginia to "free trade" global markets, mostly jobs paying under $9 an hour.