Gov. John Bel Edwards and Weyerhaeuser announced the company’s plans to make a two-phased, $157 million capital investment in its Holden facility over the next several years.
The project will upgrade equipment and modernize the sawmill for Weyerhaeuser, one of the world's largest private owners of timberlands.
According to a statement from the Governor’s Office, Phase One includes nearly $19 million to upgrade lumber kiln-drying capacity, while Phase Two will include “a major investment” of approximately $138 million to completely modernize the facility.
The investments will secure 119 existing jobs and create up to four new direct jobs, with the new jobs providing an average annual salary of $50,000, plus benefits. The project would generate an estimated 225 construction jobs, with an estimated payroll of about $25 million.
Additionally, Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project will result in 12 new indirect jobs, for a total of 16 new permanent jobs for Livingston Parish and the Capital Region.
In a statement announcing the investment, Edwards called sustainable forest products “an economic success story in Louisiana” and that Weyerhaeuser “has had an important role in Louisiana forestry, and these latest investments will extend that impact.”
“By upgrading the Holden mill and adding the latest in industry technology to improve the facility’s competitiveness, the company will secure its skilled Florida Parishes workforce for years to come,” Edwards said.
Beginning operations in 1900, Weyerhaeuser Company now owns or controls approximately 11 million acres of timberlands in the U.S. and manages additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. Weyerhaeuser manages these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards.
The company is also one of the largest manufacturers of wood products in North America and is a real estate investment trust. In 2020, the company generated $7.5 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,400 people who serve customers worldwide.
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. Six months ago, the company announced a $16.1 million investment to upgrade its Natchitoches mill.
Other Weyerhaeuser operations in Louisiana include a plywood and veneer mill in Zwolle; an oriented strand board mill in Arcadia; lumber mills in Dodson and Holden; timberland offices and operations in Hammond, Ruston and Winnfield; and a nursery and orchard in Taylor.
The Holden facility began lumber operations in 1980 under Crown Zellerbach, and Weyerhaeuser acquired the mill in 1996. Today, the Holden facility is part of Weyerhaeuser’s lumber sector within its overall Wood Products business.
The mill supports the residential housing, home improvement, and construction markets.
Brent Mitchell, Holden interim mill manager, called the investment “a testament to each employee here at Holden.”
“It reflects a personal commitment to the highest level of performance, both operational and safety-wise, that each employee has,: Mitchell said. “After years of planning this project, we’re excited for the sustained benefits it will bring to our people, our operation and the community.”
At the Holden mill, Weyerhaeuser plans to upgrade and modernize the sawmill to produce longer-length lumber, add a new planer mill, and upgrade and add two new continuous dry kilns for increased drying capacity.
The company will also build out the necessary infrastructure; upgrade computer technology, control rooms, and heating and fan systems; invest in environmental technology to meet current performance standards; and invest in quality and safety equipment.
Work is expected to take place over the next three years.
In a statement, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he is “excited” about the Weyerhaeuser expansion project.
“Not only does such a large expansion project provide local job opportunities, but it also shines a spotlight on the success that companies are having in Livingston Parish,” Ricks said. “Continued investment in Livingston Parish is an indicator of long-term commitment to our community and high confidence in continued business success for the company.”
LED began working with Weyerhaeuser on the potential projects in August 2020, according to the Governor’s Office. To help secure the projects, the State of Louisiana offered Weyerhaeuser a competitive incentive package that includes a $2 million tax credit, payable over five years, through Louisiana’s Retention and Modernization Program.
The company is also expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The granting of ITEP incentives is subject to final approval by local officials in Livingston Parish, with votes expected this summer.
Livingston Economic Development Council President and CEO David Bennett said Weyerhaeuser has been “a tremendous contributor” to the Livingston Parish economy since 1980 through jobs and investments in the local community.
“The LEDC is pleased to see the company invest in additional equipment to increase production capacity while also announcing the potential for the largest industrial investment in Livingston Parish history at the Holden facility that will provide jobs for many years to come,” Bennett said.
Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said these types of modernization projects “are hugely important in retaining jobs and maintaining competitiveness.”
“Our region’s strong timber industry relies on these investments, and we are excited to work with Weyerhaeuser and our state and local partners to support their success,” Knapp said.