Tacoma is known for its Simpson Tacoma Kraft paper mill, but the parent company’s Commencement Bay lumber mill has been less prominent. All that may be about to change.

Simpson Timber has announced plans to build a state-of-the -art, full-dimension saw mill around its existing mill on the industrial waterfront, then tear down the old mill. Although the existing mill produces only green fir studs, the new one also will mill hemlock into many sizes of lumber and have kilns to dry it.

“Expansion of this site continues a 110-year tradition of sawmilling in Tacoma,” Simpson Timber President Ray Tennison said in announcing the new mill. Employment will increase from 120 now to 151 when the new mill opens early in 2001. Then, when it reaches full production in about 2004, there will be 185 employees.

Although the market for lumber is poor right now, spokesperson Patricia Case says, Simpson is growing because it can invest in improvements such as this.

John Hynes, lumber operations manager for Simpson at Shelton,will be manager of the new facility when it begins production in two years. Hynes has been in the sawmill business since going to work for Boise Cascade 30 years ago. He joined Simpson as a production superintendent in 1991.