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Supervisors OK mill incentives

Lincoln County supervisors on Tuesday approved the awarding offinancial incentives needed by Rex Lumber LLC to start operationsat its Brookhaven sawmill, setting in motion a massive developmentplan that should pay large dividends for the city and county.

Company officials for the first time announced publicly theirintention to restart the former Columbus Lumber Co. facility byearly 2011. Based on other Rex Lumber company models, theBrookhaven facility should employ 103 workers and pay out close to$4 million annually in salary and benefits at peak operation, saidRex Lumber LLC Director Chuck Watkins.

To help achieve these numbers, county supervisors granted thecompany a new enterprise tax break and other tax breaks forproperty and shipping. Brookhaven aldermen are still debating RexLumber’s request for a water well and other requests, and pledgedTuesday night to work quickly.

“This is a great first step for Rex Lumber being able to makethe investment and provide the jobs here they would like to do,”said Rex Lumber Brookhaven General Manager Doug Boykin.

Boykin said efforts would be made to offer jobs first to theemployees who were laid off when Columbus Lumber Co. folded inSeptember last year. While those employees will have the first shotat the new jobs, there will be room for new employees to join thesawmill due to reorganization and new positions, he said.

“Some of the jobs before may change. There’s going to be someopportunity,” Boykin said. “We want to get the best peopleavailable.”

Rex Lumber is not accepting job applications at this time.Boykin said an announcement would be made later in the year -likely in late fall – when the mill is ready to take onworkers.

The remainder of 2010 will be spent preparing the mill foroperation with a $10 million investment, Boykin said. He said planscall for optimizing the equipment in place for efficiency, andcounty and city leaders hinted two weeks ago Rex Lumber planned toout-produce its predecessor by millions more board feet of lumberper year.

By the end of three years, the total investment is expected totop $20 million. Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceExecutive Vice President Cliff Brumfield said Rex Lumber’s plannedinvestments are the industrial investments seen in Brookhaven inyears.

“These numbers are particularly welcome, considering the stateof the national economy,” he said. “These jobs will not onlyreplace jobs we’ve lost, but provide additional jobs as well.”

Brumfield pointed out the mill’s success would bring a spillovereffect to related forestry industries, providing new work fortruckers, loggers, mechanics, lumber retail stores and more.

“This is money that will turn over several times in oureconomy,” he said.

Supervisors moved quickly Tuesday to pass a resolution of intentsignaling all Rex Lumber’s tax requests would kick in when thesawmill begins production. Approval of the incentives, designed tofoster industrial development, was unanimous.

“I can hear the motor running now,” said District Two SupervisorBobby Watts.