June 2, 2011 12:38:00 PM
Weyerhaeuser Co. has capital improvements planned for both its Lowndes County production facilities over the next two years.
"They''ve been approved, for next year, a $34.5 million expansion, and the next year, a $32 million expansion," said Greg Andrews, tax assessor and collector for Lowndes County.
"We are investing capital to modernize our current plant equipment to the latest state-of-the-art technologies to ensure we are positioned to be a top tier supplier for years to come," Mary Hudson of Weyerhaeuser wrote in an email.
The improvements will reduce operating costs, as well as improve product quality and environmental performance, reducing water consumption by 15 percent.
"Along with productivity, quality and environmental improvements, a key benefit of this investment is the improved employment security of the current 430 employees at the Columbus Cellulose Fibers and Modified Fiber operations," Hudson continued.
Plans include purchasing new wood raw material process equipment, new wood conversion equipment and upgrading the finished-product area. Kent Walker, vice president and sire manager for Weyerhaeuser, appeared before the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, along with Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins, Tuesday, to lay out plans for the improvements and request the exemption.
Supervisors approved more than $21 million in tax exemptions for the manufacturer, on its new projects, over the next 10 years.
While the industry will not pay those new ad valorem taxes to the county, the company still will pay taxes to the Lowndes County School District.
Weyerhaeuser is among the county''s top 10 tax payers.
"(The tax exemption) is an encouragement for them to invest in our community," said Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders. "Normally speaking, we''ve never turned down a request for a tax exemptions, when it''s possible to give them. The law allows us to give a tax exemption to employers in the manufacturing industry and to create jobs.
"Over a four-year period of time, they''re going to invest over $100 million in expanding and improving their two facilities," Sanders continued. "And we''re giving them an incentive to do that by giving them a tax exemption."
The tax office needed the supervisors'' approval of the tax breaks to meet a June 1 deadline. However, in March 2012, the agreement will be replaced with a fee-in-lieu agreement, which will consolidate all the exemptions.
The plan already has been approved by Attorney General Jim Hood''s office, and the Mississippi Development Authority has verbally agreed to it, Andrews said.
Locally, Weyerhaeuser employs 430 people and produces pressed pulp and fluff pulp from tree fibers, for use in various products, including clothing, baby diapers, feminine napkins and even aspirin.
Weyerhaeuser Co. is one of the world''s largest forest products companies and was incorporated in 1900. It has offices or operations in 13 countries, with customers worldwide. Its net sales and profits were $6.55 billion in 2010 and $5.53 billion in 2009.
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