BATON ROUGE, La. — Hunt Forest Products and Tolko Industries have announced plans to develop a $240 million sawmill in Bienville Parish. The joint venture, their second in Louisiana, is projected to create 130 new direct jobs and 387 indirect jobs in Louisiana's Northwest Region, including approximately 300 construction jobs.
The news was announced July 26 by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Hunt Forest Products co-owner James D. Hunt and Tolko President and CEO Brad Thorlakson. Construction on the new facility is expected to start in early 2022, with commercial operations starting in early 2023. The facility will be located on approximately 225 acres in Bienville Parish, near the community of Taylor, Louisiana.
Utilizing locally sourced timber, 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 partnership of Hunt and Tolko is providing tremendous benefits to our state, particularly in the heart of Louisiana’s timber industry,” said Gov. 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, Louisiana, in February 2018. Operating under the name LaSalle Lumber Co. 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, due to the fact Tolko Industries is based in Vernon, British Columbia. Tolko will own a 50 percent share in the mill. Hunt Forest Products, which is based in Ruston, Louisiana, 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.”
Louisiana Economic Development began working with Hunt Forest Products and Tolko Industries on a new sawmill in Northwest Louisiana in October 2020. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered the companies a competitive incentive package that includes the services of the LED FastStart workforce development program. FastStart will work in coordination with Bossier Parish Community College to build and equip the local workforce with the skills required. The package also includes a performance-based grant of $2 million, subject to the companies reaching specified investment and payroll benchmarks. The companies are expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs for the sawmill.
“We are absolutely delighted to hear of the project to develop a new state-of-the-art mill in Bienville Parish,” said President William Sims of the Bienville Parish Police Jury. “The Bienville Parish Police Jury will do whatever it takes to encourage economic development in our parish and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Hunt Forest Products and Tolko Industries.”
“This new, state-of-the-art sawmill will make a notable impact in Bienville Parish," said Justyn Dixon, president and CEO of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership. “Where a strong company chooses to invest speaks highly of that geographic location, and we are proud to serve a community suitable for this great partnership. Hunt Forest Products and Tolko Industries deciding to make this substantial investment and new job creation into North Louisiana solidifies NLEP’s message that our region is a prime location for companies to grow and succeed. We gladly welcome this additional investment to North Louisiana.”
Founded in 1978, Hunt Forest Products is a full-service wood products company, manufacturing a variety of plywood, lumber, and other specialty wood products. The family-owned and operated company is certified by the American Tree Farm System and APA – The Engineered Wood Association.
Tolko has been in business for more than 60 years and is a leading manufacturer of a wide range of forest products for customers around the world, including lumber, plywood and veneer-oriented strand board co-products, biomass power, and a growing number of specialty wood products. The company says it holds third-party certification on the forestlands it sustainably manages in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.