DARRINGTON, Wash. — New timber jobs are coming to Washington, and they're coming to an old mill town.
Jobs of the past will soon be jobs of the future in Darrington. A new kind of engineered wood called "cross-laminated timber," or CLT, will be used to build low-income housing to be sold around western Washington.
Right now prototypes of the homes are being built in Everett but within 18 months those jobs – all 150 of them -- will move permanently to Darrington.
Forterra, a Seattle-based land conservancy non-profit has partnered with Snohomish County to bring the project to life. It's been eight years in the making.
The company will build two new facilities in Darrington. One of them will create the CLT which is cheaper to use, more environmentally friendly and just as strong as concrete or steel.
The other facility will build modular homes to be used as affordable housing.
"This is a turning point for my community," said Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin.
Timber is ingrained in the DNA of Darrington. The town is one of the last holdouts from the halcyon days of 19th-century logging.
One mill remains in operation, but the two new facilities will have a 21st-century twist.
"These will be high-tech productions lines," said Forterra CEO Michelle Connor.
It takes just 2 weeks to complete one home, including plumbing and appliances.
Mayor Rankin believes the project will revitalize his city.
"This is that golden opportunity to draw those young people back, and draw new people that want that quality of life of living in a small town and working in an industry that is meaningful, not only to us, but the region, and Washington state," he said.
Plans are already in the works to bring the homes to low-income neighborhoods in Tacoma, as well as areas like Hamilton where people along the Skagit River are regularly flooded out.
"I can't think of anything better than providing jobs in Darrington and creating wealth for families in places like the Hilltop in Tacoma," Connor said.
The homes can be stacked like apartments or used for single families.
A two-bedroom unit is projected to sell for about $350,000. They are expected to be on the market within 2 years.
For Mayor Rankin, born and raised in Darrington, it's simply a matter of pride.
"People can do the same work their grandfather did," Rankin said. "This industry fits our community."