Hill City Sawmill employees look to the future

Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 5:21 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -The recent closure of the Hill City Sawmill has eliminated more than one hundred jobs. Some of those positions people have held their entire working lives.

“I’m forever thankful for that, the experience that I’ve learned here. Like I said, I started when I was 19. I haven’t done anything else.”

Some employees have now found themselves in a spot they haven’t been in for decades. With more years under their belt, it’s a tough territory to navigate, but they refuse to sit around and wait.

“The only thing you can do is look for another job. I’m not nearly old enough to retire, but I’m old enough to where people aren’t knocking on my door either. So, you know, I really don’t want to do the unemployment thing. About all you can do is… well, I spent all weekend drawing up a resume. Something that I haven’t done in twenty-some years, and I’ve been putting in applications. That’s about all you can do. I hope I can stay here. I own a home here. I really don’t want to move.”

The decision to close the mill wasn’t an easy one. To Jim Neiman, a third-generation forestry worker, it was the most sensible one.

“Can we figure out some other alternative here,” Neiman speculates. “I’d love to dream and figure out an alternative for the employee’s here. We have such a goof work force here that I would love to come up with something and we’re brainstorming. But, our number one goal, we couldn’t go out and announce this. We owed it to out employees to let them know first. Bottom line.”

It’s easy to look for a place to blame. For management, it’s difficult not to point at themselves.

Bruce Westerman, a Ranking Member on the Committee on Natural Resources, disagrees with the blame being anywhere but up.

“You haven’t failed [CEO Neiman], and you guys haven’t failed [Employees]. The failure’s on our side. The federal government.”

Families are trying to stay strong, to move forward.

“I want to keep my kids in hill city. I want to raise them in Hill City.”

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