County makes moves to continue Rex Lumber project

Published 8:51 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The county commission took two more steps Monday night toward bringing Rex Lumber into the county.

The commission approved an interest-free $750,000 loan from South Alabama Electric Cooperative to replace a temporary $600,000 loan from Troy Bank and Trust and to provide $150,000 for capital costs.

Chairman Robin Sullivan said the temporary loan was necessary to get first to ensure Rex Lumber chose Pike County.

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“Rex Lumber has been on a tight timeline and the reason is because the company that builds saw mills in the USA is in Canada,” Sullivan said. “If we missed the timeline, that throws it back possibly 18 months and we probably wouldn’t have gotten it at all.”

So the commission used the temporary Troy Bank and Trust Loan to purchase the property for the lumber company until they could get the permanent loan in place.

The commission approved a project agreement with Rex Lumber on Feb. 28 in exchange for the saw mill committing to bring 110 jobs and invest over $100 million into the local economy initially.

The commission also voted to waive rules Monday so that the county can engage CDG engineering as soon as possible to work on industrial access project for the new manufacturing facility.

“This project has been fast-tracked so fast, they’ve already started clearing the site,” said John Bergschnieder, assistant county engineer. “We need to move things quickly.”

The commission unanimously voted in favor of engaging CDG and Sullivan said the county will be working out the terms of the agreement with engineers at a later time. He said the engineering firm would also be assisting the county in pursuing grants.

“We need to engage them because of the depth of work requirement it would take to get this particular project done,” Sullivan said. “They will also help us apply for industrial access funds, CDBG funds and economic development subsidies.”

Since the original project agreement, commissioners have anticipated getting state funding to provide for the construction of the roads to the facility.

The mill is expected to be ready for business within 18 months.

Rex Lumber currently operates three sawmills, two in the Florida Panhandle and one in Mississippi, producing a total of 575 million board feet annually. This will be Rex Lumber’s third sawmill expansion in the last 17 years.

Founded in the 1920s by W.D. McRae, it continues to be owned and operated by the Finley McRae family of Graceville, Florida. The company ranks among the 10 largest softwood lumber producers in the United States.