Business in Houston is facing a smaller impact than expected after the closure of Houston Forest Products a year ago.
“It’s bad, but it’s not as bad as people think,” said retail business owner Tom Euverman.
He says “the retailers that had direct accounts with HFP are down for sure, but others haven’t been affected as much.”
Chamber of Commerce President Troy Reitsma says local business had to adjust staffing and stock in response to the mill closure.
“Some businesses have seen a small drop in sales, but overall sales have still been good,” Reitsma said.
“The community has been very supportive to the local businesses. The merchant dollars program sold over $70,000 worth of gift certificates last year which helps keep local dollars local.”
Rod Kluss, owner of First Choice Fashions, says he has lost sales in work boots and clothing since the mill closed.
“It has affected my sales overall because of losing all those workers,” he said.
Kluss says the impact on retail depends on the business.
“It varies as to what retail business you are in,” he said.
“I think some of them probably aren’t affected, others are a little bit.”
In the last year, Houston’s economic activity has been quite steady.
Since the mill closure, Houston’s veterinary clinic closed and a new Majestic Restaurant opened.
Several businesses changed hands, including Happy Jacks Pub, Subway and the laundromat.
Reitsma says the mill closure has required Houston to diversify its economic focus.
“We can not rely solely on forestry as our main driver. The community needs to look at other sectors such as tourism and mining,” he said.
“With our ideal location, we have the opportunity to provide the supplies that are needed for mining exploration and the [proposed] LNG lines.”
Euverman says pipeline activity is sustaining some optimism among retail business owners.
He hopes it will bring a temporary boost.
“Who knows what’s coming down the pipe?” he said.