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New owners plot future of sawmill

The new owners of the former Columbus Lumber Co. continue toresearch options for the Brookhaven sawmill’s future, with nodecisive plan yet agreed upon.

Rex Lumber LLC Director Chuck Watkins said he and companyofficials are working with city, county and state officials on thepossibility of inducements, tax incentives and other financialassistance for the sawmill. Rex Lumber purchased the sawmill out offoreclosure from Bank of America earlier this month, and Watkinshas been in Brookhaven often to plot the facility’s course.

Watkins said stripping the mill and shipping it back to thecompany’s other holdings in Florida is “not in our plans.” He saidthe speed at which operations could be restarted in Brookhavendepends on working out deals with local and state officials.

“We’re in the very initial stage of trying to figure out what todo,” Watkins said. “The sale was very fast, and we didn’t haveenough time to do the diligence we needed, so we’re doing thatafterward.”

Facility general manager Doug Boykin, former vice president andco-owner of the defunct Columbus Lumber Co, said the mill has hireda small, skeletal staff, including plant workers the mill “willneed going forward.”

Boykin and Watkins remain mum on details, but Boykin hinted thecurrently nameless sawmill could eventually be christened RexLumber of Brookhaven – a strong indication the mill will remainintact in the local industrial community.

Boykin said he plans to meet with county supervisors and cityaldermen in the coming months to craft a plan for the sawmill.

“We want to get everybody’s involvement on this,” he said. “Wewant people to be a part of this process, locally andstatewide.”

Bank of America foreclosed on Columbus Lumber Co. on Sept. 24,eliminating more than 100 jobs and ending the sawmill’s 66-year runin Brookhaven. The collapse of the national housing market, broughton by the economic recession begun in 2008, caused lumber pricesand demand to fall to historic lows.

Rex Lumber LLC, a multi-company corporation based in Graceville,Fla., purchased the sawmill on Nov. 6.