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.



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