TAYLOR, La. -- Gov. John Bel Edwards, Hunt Forest Products co-owner James D. Hunt and Tolko President and CEO Brad Thorlakson announced Monday the companies will develop a new $240 million sawmill in Bienville Parish.
The joint venture company will create 130 direct new jobs, with an average salary of $57,400, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development (LED) estimates the new sawmill will result in 387 indirect jobs for a total of more than 500 new jobs in North Louisiana. Approximately 300 construction jobs will be created.
Sourcing timber locally, the state-of-the-art sawmill will require approximately 1.3 million tons of wood annually to produce an estimated 320 million board feet of lumber. The facility will be located on approximately 225 acres in Bienville Parish, near the community of Taylor.
Construction on the new facility is expected to start in early 2022, with commercial operations starting in early 2023.
“The partnership of Hunt and Tolko is providing tremendous benefits to our state, particularly in the heart of Louisiana’s timber industry,” said Edwards. “This new facility will be a great economic boost to Louisiana’s Northwest Region, resulting in hundreds of direct and indirect new jobs across the construction, forestry, industrial services and retail sectors of Bienville Parish and beyond.”
The sawmill in Bienville will be the second project resulting from the collaboration of Hunt Forest Products and Tolko. The two companies partnered to develop a $115 million lumber mill in Urania in February 2018. Operating under the name LaSalle Lumber Company LLC, the Urania plant has created 120 direct jobs, exceeding the initial plans for 107 new jobs.
“We are excited to be bringing our second high-tech sawmill and the skilled jobs it will provide,” said Hunt. “This sawmill will provide a local outlet for the massive inventory of southern yellow pine that exists in this state. It will boost the local economy, bring a new generation of sawmill technology to this part of the state and provide another such outlet for regional Louisiana timber. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
The new lumber mill will be a foreign direct investment, or FDI, project, as Tolko Industries Ltd. is a 60-year-old, family-owned Canadian forestry company that produces a wide range of forest products for customers around the world. Based in Vernon, British Columbia, Tolko will own a 50 percent share in the mill. Hunt Forest Products, which is based in Ruston, will own the other 50 percent and will manage and operate the mill on a day-to-day basis.
“Our first venture into the United States was in partnership with Hunt Forest Products, a family-owned company like ours, and that has been very successful,” said Thorlakson. “So, we are looking forward to working with the Hunt family again to bring another state-of-the-art sawmill, and jobs, to Louisiana.”