Industries Economic Development

Sawmill operations will resume in Isle of Wight County

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Franklin Lumber LLC has purchased the former International Paper (IP) Franklin Sawmill, closed since 2009, and will restart operations by year’s end, the governor’s office announced Thursday.

A new company started by former employees of the IP mill, Franklin Lumber will create 72 jobs with the reopening of the facility, with the potential to create additional jobs when a second shift is added, as market conditions allow. According to a press release from the governor’s office, the new owners plan to make $14.8 million in capital investments to the facility over the next five years to increase the capacity and competitiveness of the mill.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Gov. Bob McDonnell said, “The forestry industry has long been among the top economic drivers for Virginia in general, and this region in particular. Accordingly, I am pleased to see this sector continuing to gain strength, right along with the rest of Virginia’s economy …”

Franklin Lumber plans to produce 60 million board feet of southern yellow pine lumber annually utilizing one shift. Its products will consist of dimensional lumber for retail, treating and truss manufacturers. The company also will have a market for its residual products, including IP, which will purchase wood chips for its recently re-opened fluff mill.

More than 40% of Franklin Lumber’s annual purchases of logs, estimated at nearly 300,000 tons, will be sourced from Virginia. Total wood receipts paid to area loggers and landowners could exceed $10 million on an annual basis.

“In addition to the 72 new jobs and new investments, the reopening of the mill will create important new opportunities for loggers and landowners in southeastern Virginia, who have the opportunity to benefit from a new purchaser of forest resources,” Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry, said in a statement.

Based on the IP facility’s close proximity, Franklin Lumber and IP worked cooperatively to develop an agreement that enabled Franklin Lumber to purchase IP’s dormant sawmill assets, lease the site, and operate the mill. The increased activity at the site also is expected to make current and future forestry operations in the area more viable by providing further economic activity and a local source of wood residuals.

“The cooperative arrangement between IP and Franklin Lumber is a win-win situation and a great fit for the Franklin Mill and the community,” said Franklin Lumber Mill Operations Manager Jeff Stevens. “This is a great utilization of mill assets. We are very pleased to have re-purposed another portion of IP property and look forward to welcoming our new neighbors.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Isle of Wight County on the project. Gov. McDonnell approved a $150,000 matching grant from the Governor's AFID Fund to assist Isle of Wight County. The project is receiving additional assistance through the State’s Enterprise Zone Program and through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program; the Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide funding and services to support the company's recruitment, training and retraining activities.

JoAnn West Hall, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, welcomed the news. “We are pleased to see a local team of experienced, former IP employees partnering to bring this exciting new project to fruition. With the opening of Franklin Lumber, we will once again have more options for our local forest landowners and loggers right here in our community.”

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