Fla. company acquires Columbus Lumber

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An out-of-state lumber corporation has purchased Columbus LumberCo., officials said Monday.

Former company co-owner Doug Boykin said the Brookhaven sawmillwas purchased from Bank of America by Rex Lumber LLC, amulti-company lumber corporation headquartered in Graceville, Fla.,last Friday. The sale amount was not disclosed, and the futureusage of the sawmill remains unclear, he said.

“Hopefully, they’ll be able, at some point, to bring thisfacility back up. That depends on a lot of things,” said Boykin,who now works for Rex Lumber LLC. “My next step is to work withthem to introduce them to the local officials, local businessleaders and see what options are available for the future of thisfacility.”

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Officials from Rex Lumber LLC were not available forcomment.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the chamber and IndustrialDevelopment Foundation would meet with Rex Lumber LLC officialslater this week.

“We are extremely fortunate the company has been purchased andwill hopefully be back in full production at some point,” he said.”Considering the current market, the facility could have stayedidle for quite some time.”

Brumfield said the fact Rex Lumber LLC is a large andexperienced lumber corporation should bring strength to the formerColumbus Lumber Co.

“They bring a lot of resources to the table,” he said. “It’s afact that Columbus Lumber is located in the middle of one of thebiggest wood baskets in the U.S. The mill is needed in this areaand is a vital part of our forestry industry.”

The corporation also owns North Florida Woodlands, North FloridaLumber and a wood treatment facility. All the corporation’sholdings are based in North Florida, and the former Columbus LumberCo. is its first out-of-state operation.

Columbus Lumber Co. had operated in Brookhaven since 1943. Thesawmill was one of Brookhaven’s most venerable industries until2008, when the collapse of the national housing market causedlumber prices to plummet to near historic lows.

Since last spring, the company implemented several cost-savingmeasures and expanded its markets creatively to combat the nationalrecession.

The efforts fell on Sept. 24 when Bank of America ordered themill to cease operations. More than 100 jobs were lost.

The bank’s six-week process of selling the mill ended Fridaywhen Rex Lumber LLC purchased the sawmill, all its assets andapproximately 145 acres of property surrounding the site inNortheast Brookhaven.

Jeff Grierson, a former Columbus Lumber Co. co-owner whoresigned for personal reasons on the eve of the sawmill’s sale,said the sale of the mill to Rex Lumber LLC was the outcome he andBoykin have worked toward since the bank issued the stop order inSeptember. He alluded the sale should keep the mill from beingdismantled and carried away, though no official comment has comefrom the new owners.

“To have this for the employees and for the community in thelong run was what was important for me,” he said. “Once we got tothe point to where I was satisfied it would be sold, me staying onboard past that point wasn’t going to make it better or worse.”

Grierson said several parties expressed interest in the sawmillbefore Rex Lumber LLC closed the deal last week. He said severalbids were submitted before an auction in Chicago on Oct. 26 drew nointerested parties, pointing out the auction was simply “part ofthe process” and not indicative of a lack of interest in ColumbusLumber Co.

Likewise, Boykin said a legal notice scheduled to run in TheDAILY LEADER throughout November advertising a second auction atthe Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex on Nov. 30 is alsosimply a legal necessity.