The old Albertville sawmill, formerly Bowater Lumber, will soon reopen under a new company.
Rainy weather did not dampen the spirits of local city, economic, state and company leaders Wednesday afternoon when Southern Parallel Forest Products Corporation announced it will open the doors of the old sawmill in May.
“We are pleased to be announcing the May opening of the new Southern Parallel Sawmill operation,” said Richard Glazier, company president. “We look forward to working and meeting vendors, customers and future employees in the weeks and months to come.”
The privately owned forest products company is based in British Columbia, Canada and was incorporated in Dec. 2010. Citing a “pine beetle epidemic” and lack of a skilled workforce in Canada, Southern Parallel leaders decided to open operations in the states. Thanks to professional relationships with former Bowater executives and local economic developers, the company visited Albertville in Feb. 2011 and quickly knew it was the place they wanted to be.
“They told me a year and a half ago this is where they wanted to go,” said Matt Arnold, president and CEO of the Marshall County Economic Development Council. “They were ready to come. This was the perfect place, but they were waiting for price of lumber to go up before it would profitable to run a sawmill.”
Virginia Lessard, corporate controller for Southern Parallel, said company officials did not want to open the sawmill and have to lay people off or shut down operations later because the market would not support it.
However, Glazier said he now feels like “the time is right.”
“In this road to getting here, … we’ve already made a lot of friends,” he said. “We see that the future is not in western Canada anymore. The future is in the southern plantation areas.
“There’s a stable workforce that’s going to show up for work every day, and that’s a struggle we’re having back home.
“I think it’s exciting. We’re going to have some fun and get some trucks rolling around here.”
The company’s head office will be in Albertville. It will begin operations with one shift and progress to two shifts. At full capacity, officials expect the company to employ around 130 people and produce more than 100 million board feet of southern yellow pine dimensional lumber for the domestic market.
The company is also converting the wood pellet fired boilers used by Bowater into natural gas boilers, which means they will be “big customers for the Marshall County Gas Board,” according to Arnold.
Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea, state legislators Kerry Rich and Clay Scofield and Alabama Forest Products Development Center Director Ken Muehlenfeld were on hand for the announcement and expressed their appreciation to the company.
“Obviously we are very excited about this announcement and welcome Southern Parallel to the city of Albertville,” Honea said. “This development is a great win for the community as it will certainly spur the local economy by creating new jobs for our citizens and revitalizing a facility that was a thriving part of our community for many years.”
Southern Parallel acknowledged the hard work of previous employees, city, county and state authorities in the revitalization of the sawmill. It also recognized Progress Rail Services for “showing their commitment to the community and the forest products industry of Albertville by supporting the preservation of this 33-year-old sawmill operation.”