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Larex begins exodus

| August 25, 2004 12:00 AM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

After nearly a decade of operations in Libby, Larex Inc. is moving its outfit to Minnesota.

For years Larex has been shipping western larch from Libby and Kalispell to a manufacturing plant located in Cohasset, Minnesota, where a natural polymer is extracted from the wood and used in a variety of products.

³It¹s used in everything from dietary supplements to animal feeds to food and beverage additives,² said Tim Ryan, Larex¹s timber resources manager. ³It¹s very good for colon health and the immune system.²

Ryan said the reason for the move was largely economic. For the Minnesota plant, Larex will primarily purchase eastern larch. In the best years in Libby, the company has not been able to obtain more than 4,000 or 5,000 tons of western larch. Larex¹s current needs have exceeded the amount of larch available in the immediate area.

³We can save quite a bit of money each year by moving the procurement operation to Minnesota,² he said. ³As sales ramp up and the current plant approaches capacity, we¹ll continue to look for additional capacity in other locations.²

Minnesota has the highest concentration of eastern larch in the country. Utilizing the large supply of wood at their backdoor will significantly decrease shipping costs.

Larex is currently in the process of loading railroad cars with the remaining larch in Libby. Once the inventory has been depleted, Ryan will make the move to Minnesota.

³It¹s going to be like starting over,² he said. ³I love the company, it¹s got a lot of great employees and the management is superb. It¹s a fabulous career opportunity for me.²

Ryan has resided in Libby for the last five years and has lived in Montana for 25 years. Moving from a place that has become home will be difficult for the outdoor enthusiast, but he is excited for the new experience.

³It will be an opportunity to learn forestry and logging in another part of the country with very different tree species,² said Ryan, who will head up procurement efforts for eastern larch. ³Libby¹s been a great place and has been very receptive to Larex. I¹m excited for this opportunity, but I will really miss Libby and the people here.²

Ryan has been involved in a number of organizations, including the Society of American Foresters, which named him Forester of the Year in 2002. He also served on the Healthy Communities Task Force, the board of directors of the Montana Logging Association, and the Montana Wood Products Association, and is a member of the Lincoln County Resource Advisory Committee.

³There are a lot of very special people here,² he said. ³I¹ve made great friends.²

Larex¹s goal was to finish up its work in Libby by the end of the year, but recent developments involving railroad track reconstruction has expedited the work. Ryan hopes to be done with the Libby shipments by late September. He expects to move to Minnesota by mid-November.