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A pleasing development

Published 8:18pm Saturday, June 29, 2013

Soon the rumbling of logs and the whine of saw blades will again echo across the Blackwater River.

The news about Franklin Lumber LLC purchasing the inactive sawmill from International Paper is an exciting development for Western Tidewater.

In addition to initially creating 72 jobs, with the potential for more, the new company is expected to invest $14.8 million into capital investments during the next five years.

The project has come about in part through a cooperative effort among several different agencies. But it was International Paper that made the most significant contribution by allowing the mill to be reopened, a rare move by the company.

Another notable thing about the announcement is that the new owners Terry Godwin and Perk Taylor worked at the sawmill. These guys know the business.

The rich history of the sawmill goes back to 1887, when the Camp family started it on its current site. In the ensuing years, it became an integral part of the community, and it is poised to do so again when it starts operations again.

The project has received both state and local support. A startup grant from the Governor’s Agricultural and Forestry Industries Development Fund and additional help from Isle of Wight County were instrumental in bringing the project to reality, and officials are especially excited about the experience the new owners bring to the venture.

“We are pleased to see a local team of experienced, former IP employees partnering to bring this exciting new project to fruition,” IW Board of Supervisors Chairman JoAnn West Hall said recently.

The fact that public and private entities would partner to create jobs and bring back a piece of history shows a belief in this area, in its resources and in its labor force. And the investment, as Gov. Bob McDonnell stated during the recent announcement about plans for the mill, shows an understanding of the continuing importance of agriculture and forestry to the economy of Western Tidewater and, more broadly, to the commonwealth.

“Union Camp had a tradition of commitment to quality lumber manufacturing, and Franklin Lumber intends to continue to honor the tradition,” Perk Taylor said recently.

Kudos to all involved in this hugely promising venture. It’s likely the Camp brothers would be pleased.

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