Mississippi sawmill announces $40M expansion, 45 jobs

NEWTON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi sawmill will invest $40 million to increase production by 50 percent, with plans to hire 45 more workers.

Michigan-based Biewer Lumber announced the expansion Tuesday at its Newton sawmill, a little more than a year after the company opened the facility. The expansion is projected to be complete by late 2019, bringing the total number of employees to 170.

CEO Tim Biewer says increasing demand is driving the move. The sawmill’s capacity will expand from 200 million to more than 300 million board-feet per year. That additional production will create spinoff activity among loggers and truckers, with wood demand rising by 400,000 tons (360,000 metric tons) per year.

Mid-Mississippi Development District Executive Director Newt Ishee says local officials are granting an agreement that will cut property taxes by two-thirds for 10 years. Such a deal is only available to a company investing more than $60 million, but Ishee says officials have determined that Biewer should be eligible because it invested $85 million before opening the mill in April 2017. The threshold to qualify for the big tax break used to be an investment of $100 million until the Legislature lowered it this year.

Ishee was away from his office Wednesday and couldn’t immediately say how much the tax break would be worth. Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Tammy Craft said Biewer would save $17.3 million over 10 years from an industrial-property-tax exemption on the original investment and expansion, but those breaks are less lucrative. The company is also projected to save $624,000 over 10 years on inventory-tax exemptions from the original investment and expansion.

Craft said Biewer will pay an average salary of $35,000 per year, which she said would enable the company to get rebates on worker income taxes.

Biewer could get cash rebates of more than $600,000 over 10 years on workers hired in the expansion. The company may collect around $1.75 million in rebates from workers hired in the initial investment.

The Mississippi Development Authority is designating $582,000 in federal community development money to pay for public road improvements to aid the project. The city of Newton will provide a $58,000 match for that amount.

Construction is scheduled to begin in March and production is scheduled to begin in November 2019. The company has four years to hire the additional workers under an agreement with the state.

Biewer has four other sawmills in Michigan and Wisconsin, plus treating facilities in Michigan, Illinois and New York.

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