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Rex officials seeking help for mill plan

Details are slim, but the New Year may be greeting LincolnCounty with a round of economic development.

County supervisors on Monday agreed to meet with officials fromRex Lumber LLC and tour their facilities on Behan Road Wednesdaymorning, and scheduled those same officials to appear before theboard at the next meeting on Jan. 18. Rex Lumber officials areexpected to outline their business plans to supervisors and requesttax breaks commonly awarded to new industries, said Lincoln CountyChancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop.

“I think the board is very open to, and has a history of,allowing tax incentives for new industry,” he said.

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield, who has been working with Rex Lumberofficials, said the company has “great plans” for the sawmill. Hedeclined to elaborate on those plans until company officials areready to make a formal announcement.

“Much research has been done, and they stand to be a strong partof our local economy,” Brumfield said. “They’ll be meeting withcity and county officials in the near future to discusspossibilities for the plant, as well as their needs to move forwardas planned.”

The coming discussions could signal the restarting of operationsat the 65-year-old sawmill, but Rex Lumber officials have notprovided details. The Florida-based company has kept quiet aboutits intentions for the former Columbus Lumber Co. yard sincepurchasing it out of foreclosure from Bank of America in earlyNovember.

“We’ve got three or four different scenarios we’re workingtoward,” said company director Chuck Watkins. “Hopefully, the cityand county will help us with that stuff.”

Though the future of the sawmill remains unclear, Rex Lumber hasalready sold two sections of the 145-acre property to Alabama-basedGreat Southern Wood Preserving, Inc., which plans to hire 15-20employees and begin shipping its YellaWood brand treated lumber byFeb. 1.

Supervisors on Monday committed to providing incentives to GSWPand city alderman continue to debate whether or not to allow thecompany to drill a well onsite. The ordinance preventing waterwells is also a potential holdup for Rex Lumber, Watkins said.

If Rex Lumber were to restart the sawmill, it could help patch anoticeable hole in the local economy, Brumfield said. The closureof Columbus Lumber caused the direct loss of almost 100 jobs, andmany more sectors of the local economy – from related forestrybusinesses to lumber retail outlets – were affected.

“We would have seen much better numbers had the facility stillbeen in operation,” Brumfield said.

Supervisors are also preparing to help another company along byrenting out the abandoned Keystone Seneca manufacturing plant onIndustrial Park Road. No details were provided, but Bishop saidMonday an unnamed company has expressed interest in rentingportions of the huge facility for inventory space.

Built in 1956 and vacant since 2007, the Keystone facility wasonce a major player in industrial Brookhaven, manufacturing wirecloth material in Brookhaven for several years. The spaciousbuilding has low ceilings and a forest of support columns, makingit almost unusable for modern industries.