By: The Working Forest Staff
NATCHITOCHES, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards and Natchitoches Mill Manager Jason Smith of Weyerhaeuser announced the company will make a $16.1 million capital investment in its Natchitoches mill. The project will provide major equipment upgrades at the site, including modernization of manufacturing presses and machinery.
Through the new project, Weyerhaeuser will secure more than 200 existing jobs and potentially create as many as 20 new direct jobs over the next several years, with the new jobs providing an average annual salary of $45,000, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 25 new indirect jobs, for a total of 45 new jobs in the region.
“Weyerhaeuser’s impact on our forest products industry is visible all across Louisiana, and especially in north-central Louisiana, where the Natchitoches mill is a great economic engine,” Gov. Edwards said. “This latest project modernizes the Weyerhaeuser mill with important new technology. That investment in capital equipment also is an investment in the strong Weyerhaeuser workforce in our state, which will grow in both size and competitiveness with this project.”
In Louisiana, Weyerhaeuser’s 984 employees work in mill manufacturing sites and in forestry operations that manage 1.39 million acres of in-state timberland. Weyerhaeuser operations in Louisiana include a plywood and veneer mill in Zwolle and an oriented strand board mill between Arcadia and Simsboro, with those mills directly supplying Natchitoches. Other Weyerhaeuser operations in the state include lumber mills in Dodson and Holden; timberland offices and operations in Hammond, Ruston, and Winnfield; and a nursery and orchard in Taylor.
“This investment reflects Weyerhaeuser’s commitment to the Natchitoches community and is a direct result of the focus of our associates working together to deliver great results,” Weyerhaeuser’s Jason Smith said. “We’ve been working on this project for more than a year, and we’re excited for the sustained benefits it will bring to our people, our operation and the community.”
The 250,000-square-foot Natchitoches mill is the major customer for Weyerhaeuser’s Zwolle site, which provides materials that form laminated veneer lumber and structural headers and beams under the Microllam® brand in Natchitoches. The company’s Arcadia/Simsboro mill supplies the stabilizing web portion of Weyerhaeuser I-joists manufactured under the Trus Joist® brand in Natchitoches.
“Throughout the years, Weyerhaeuser has made multiple investments in its Natchitoches mill directly impacting the Natchitoches community and our economic growth,” Natchitoches Mayor Ronnie Williams said. “I have personally seen the impact of these investments as both my parents were employed by Weyerhaeuser in the past. The City of Natchitoches is proud of the economic partnership we have in Weyerhaeuser, and their commitment to further impact our community in a positive way with a strong workforce and successful operation.”
In January, LED and its economic development partners joined Weyerhaeuser in project discussions. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the company a competitive incentive package that includes the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart® – the nation’s No. 1 state workforce training program. Weyerhaeuser also will receive a Modernization Tax Credit of $350,000 – to be claimed in equal installments over five years – and the company is expected to utilize Louisiana’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.
“The Natchitoches Community Alliance is proud to partner with LED to visit, listen and offer assistance to our major economic drivers,” said NCA Board Chairman Ryan Todtenbier. “We could not be happier to see the commitment from LED to support this project that came from one of those visits. Weyerhaeuser is an important employer and good corporate citizen, and we look forward to continuing to support them as they strengthen operations in Natchitoches.”
At the Natchitoches mill, Weyerhaeuser will install state-of-the-art programmable logical controls on one existing press that produces laminated veneer lumber, or LVL. Work is expected to begin in early 2021, and the company then has additional plans for equipment upgrades taking place over the next three years to enhance the productivity of the mill.
“Weyerhaeuser is an important component of the wood products industry, which is a driver of the Central Louisiana economy,” said Executive Vice President Larkin Simpson of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “We applaud their leadership for commitment to the region with the addition of new jobs and capital investment. CLEDA is glad to work alongside our valued partners to grow the number of great Central Louisiana manufacturers. In Central Louisiana: We Make Good Stuff.”
“We congratulate Weyerhaeuser on its commitment to growing its operations in Natchitoches and creating good-paying jobs in the community,” said Board Chair Adam Johnston of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership. “Weyerhaeuser is one of our top driver-companies in North Louisiana and its growth has economic impact throughout our region.”