State grant supports N’hampton project

Published 11:22 am Monday, July 11, 2016

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday to authorize a $569,769 grant from the Department of Commerce to improve sewer service in support of the retention of West Fraser Timber Co. located near Seaboard.

Economic Development Director Gary Brown said, “The company, which is one of the largest lumber manufacturers in North America, is upgrading its production equipment and requires additional wastewater capacity,” said Northampton County Economic Development Director Gary Brown as to the reason why the business was the recipient of the state funding.

“The county is pursuing the (state) funds in partnership with the Town of Seaboard,” Brown said, adding that West Fraser was investing nearly $18 million of its own money in the project.

According to Brown, West Frasier, at this time, will change its four batch kilns to two continuous kilns, which will allow it to produce more dimensional lumber.

“West Frasier is the largest dimensional timber manufacturer in the United States,” Brown noted.

Brown said the Department of Commerce notified him on June 28 that a pre-application had been approved, so all that was lacking get the funding was a resolution from the county stating it would receive and properly administer the grant funding.

According to a June 23 email from Lawrence Bivins with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to NC House Representative Michael Wray, who worked with Brown and Seaboard to get the grant: “The N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority today approved a request for Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account funding in support of a project in Northampton County: A $568,769 grant to The Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account provides grants to units of local government of the 80 most distressed counties in the state. Funds may be used for publicly-owned infrastructure projects that are reasonably expected to result in the creation of new jobs. IDF – Utility Account funding is derived from set-asides of Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) awarded in Tier 2 and Tier 3 counties.”

In addition to the two new continuous kilns for West Frasier, the project includes an above ground lift pump at the pump station, which is much more robust, has longer life and is way easier to service.

Brown said, “The $18 million West Frasier upgrade is already well underway and is expected to be complete by March 2017.”

He added that West Frazier will increase production from 140 million board feet of lumber per year to 225 million board feet.

Chip Warren, manager of the Seaboard mill said, “We thank the county for their consideration and support of this initiative.

“West Fraser believes in making investments to improve our operations,” Warren said. “This wastewater project provides infrastructure that supports our capital investment to expand production at the mill.”

Warren added, “Building a strong business supports our mill’s competitiveness so we can continue to be an active employer and a positive contributor to the Town of Seaboard and Northampton County.”