Tax exemptions passed for pellet producer, AITX stays on track

Published 12:17 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County’s Board of Supervisors approved ad valorem exemptions and Free Port Warehouse status for pellet manufacturers Rex Lumber and Brookhaven Pellets in their meeting Monday morning. Board attorney Greg Malta advised the supervisors the tax exemptions were lawful “as long as the tax collector is satisfied,” according to the state statute. 

Brookhaven Pellet LLC will ship over 100 percent of its goods to outside of the state. The market for wood pellets is not in Lincoln County but in Europe. Area Forester Steve Williams said the pellets are used in Europe to heat homes and businesses. 

Brookhaven Pellet is part of Rex Lumber and was the first pellet mill opened in the county. Pellets are made using the byproducts of lumber cuts at the sawmill. Wood chips and sawdust are used to make the pellets, Williams said. 

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Pine, hardwoods and privet hedges can be used in the production of pellets. The production of pellets should help local landowners, port towns and the international trade system. Pellets also help the timber companies. 

“It would help them because they get paid for the byproducts now,” Williams said. “Normally, you dispose of the wood chips and sawdust in some way.” 

Rex Lumber has yet to return repeated messages requesting information about their pellet production and what timber is being used. 

Garrick Combs, executive director of Brookhaven’s Chamber of Commerce, said eligibility for tax exemptions is determined by state law and not by local governments. Brookhaven and Lincoln County compete for facilities under corporations and tax exemptions are a tool used to “show we are the best option for their expansion,” Combs said. 

Communities who don’t support industries through providing environments for investment can see those facilities deteriorate. Eventually a local facility could become obsolete and could close if they stop receiving investment. 

“If a community refuses to support industrial expansion, that can send a message that we are not the best place to receive a return on a company’s investment,” Combs said. “The best relationships that our local governments have with our local industry is more of a partnership. We work together to make sure the companies that employ our people remain the best choice for modernization and expansion to keep our community growing.” 

Staying on track

AITX is staying on schedule for its $23.6 million expansion of the maintenance and repair shop in Brookhaven. The new AITX location will add around 100 jobs to the area. Currently, new hires are being trained in Bude before transferring back to Brookhaven. 

John Ward, senior vice president of repair services at AITX, said the site is making progress towards completion. Rain is no longer a factor in the rate of construction and previous estimates indicated a June or July completion. Ward said they plan to announce a date for the ribbon cutting at a later time and would work with the chamber of commerce.