Physician Who Reopened Bradley Lumber Mill Accused of Defrauding Lender

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 12:00 am  

“It appeared to be the best decision at the time,” said Chambers, 58, who has since moved to Dumas. “And I think even in retrospect the community is better off.”

A Pleasant Surprise

After graduating from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and receiving his license to practice medicine in 1980, Chambers began working in Warren.

“It’s a small community and it’s almost solely dependent on the wood industry,” he said.

In June 2002, the town was bracing for a hit. Potlatch, of Spokane, Wash., announced it was leaving the hardwood lumber business and closing the mill that it had purchased in Warren in 1958. Potlatch took a pretax charge of about $9 million to cover costs associated with the closure and the write-down of the mill.

Chambers said he hated to see the people out of work. “My wife, Michelle, and I decided to buy the mill and reopen it,” he said.

Chambers said he invested about $3 million in the mill.

Chambers’ goal was eventually to make back his investment and then turn the ownership over to mill employees.

Right away, the mill was a hit, turning oak and pine logs into boards to be used to build furniture and other items.

“We were profitable at five months,” Chambers told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in August 2003. He told the paper that a 12 to 15 percent increase in hardwood prices was the cause for the financial success, not anything that he had done.

“Shucks, man, I’m a medical doctor, not a lumberman,” Chambers said in 2003. “It surprised us pleasantly.”

In 2003 and 2004, the mill “had a good profit,” Chambers told Arkansas Business last week. But instead of using the profit to pay down loans or save for later, he divided it among the workers.

 

 

Please read our comments policy before commenting.