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Rex eyes March production start

Industry observers and citizens can expect to see increasedactivity at the Rex Lumber site in the coming months as the companyprepares to go into production early next year.

Doug Boykin, Rex’s general manager at the site of formerColumbus Lumber Company, told the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club Wednesdaythat equipment and machinery is currently being sought and shouldbe coming in for installation over the next two to three months.Rex officials are anticipating the company being in productionlocally around the first week of March 2011.

From an employment standpoint, Rex is expecting to hireapproximately 110 people for the local operation. Boykin said 120Columbus employees were let go after it went into bankruptcy andshut down.

“For us to be able to bring back 110 of those jobs is going tobe great,” Boykin said.

With Rex, Boykin said there will be more workers in the plantarea than there were under Columbus. Also, the jobs will be morehighly skilled and workers will be training on the new equipment inJanuary and February prior to production start-up.

Currently, Boykin said, there are 23 employees at the plant andall but three are former Columbus employees.

Boykin also provided a brief history of the Rex Lumber Company,which was founded in the early 1900s in Florida. The company is nowbeing operated by the fourth generation of the McRae family.

Regarding Rex’s decision to purchase the Columbus property lastNovember, Boykin said company officials looked at the type of woodavailable in this area, Great Southern Wood Preserving’s decisionto come here and the Brookhaven community itself. Also, theavailability of a nearby railroad line, which will provide accessto northern areas, was a positive influence.

Over the next few months, Boykin said Rex will be bringing in avariety of new equipment, including a new planer and a new kiln.Whereas Columbus’ equipment could handle around 45,000 board feetan hour, Boykin said Rex’s will be able to handle 75,000-85,000board feet an hour.

Boykin was also optimistic about timber-related activities inthe months and years ahead that should make prices morecompetitive. He mentioned some area mill activities as well as anew KiOR plant targeted for Franklin County that will transformwood products for use as fuel.

“I would think there would be a bright future for timbergrowers,” Boykin said.