Gov. Phil Bryant, left, Weyerhaeuser’s Philadelphia mill Manager Stan Webb, center, and Weyerhaeuser Governmental Affairs and Community Relations Manager Monte Simpson, right, at the announcement on Monday that Weyerhaeuser will invest $57 million over three years to modernize the plant here.
Gov. Phil Bryant, left, Weyerhaeuser’s Philadelphia mill Manager Stan Webb, center, and Weyerhaeuser Governmental Affairs and Community Relations Manager Monte Simpson, right, at the announcement on Monday that Weyerhaeuser will invest $57 million over three years to modernize the plant here.
Weyerhaeuser Company chose to modernize its Philadelphia mill with a $57 million investment over three years because of the competency of the local workforce, company officials said after the announcement on Monday.

The capital investment to install two continuous direct fired kilns and a new planer mill at the softwood lumber mill here was announced by Gov. Phil Bryant surrounded by city, county and state leaders at a ceremony at the mill on Monday afternoon.

Work on the modernization is expected to begin immediately, officials said. While no new jobs are being created, company officials said the modernization will maintain jobs.

The modernization could lay the groundwork for future expansion, one county official speculated, speaking on background.

Stan Webb, unit manager at Weyerhaeuser's lumber mill in Philadelphia, said, "Customer demand for lumber products has improved over the last year, and we are excited for this reinvestment opportunity at Philadelphia.

"With strengthening markets and positive support from both the Mississippi and community development authorities, we're looking forward to beginning work on these projects. I'd like to thank our associates and leadership team for delivering results that earn the right for capital. We also appreciate the support we've received from our local, state and federal officials."

To launch these projects, the company has been working with the Mississippi Development Authority, Community Development Partnership in Philadelphia, Sen. Giles Ward, Rep. C. Scott Bounds and other state and local officials.

With the help and assistance of these groups and individuals, the investments will help Weyerhaeuser retain existing jobs, expand product-line offerings and improve competitiveness and long-term viability, company officials aid.

Monte Simpson, Weyerhaeuser's Governmental and Community Relations Manager, said Weyerhaeuser chose to modernize the Philadelphia mill because of the competence displayed by Webb and his team.

Simpson said the modernization will make production "more efficient" and "more accurate."

Bryant told a crowd of about 100 dignitaries and Weyerhaeuser employees that the company could have gone somewhere else, but instead, chose to stay in Neshoba County.

"That family will have the opportunity to keep their job, have a home, send their kids to school and maybe, send their kids to college," Bryant said.

The governor took pride in the fact that jobs would be retained here in Neshoba County, and even said he liked job retention better than job creation.

Bryant said he has planted timber and enjoys being a tree farmer because "not one has jumped the fence."

U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper said America is seeing a "new Mississippi" and that it is the "best place to have a job."

Rep. Scott Bounds called Monday a "glorious day."

"Weyerhaeuser has endured the test of time and events like this do much to increase our community pride," he said.

Bounds said Tuesday afternoon that Weyerhaeuser's modernization was a commitment that the industry would be in Neshoba County "for the long term."

In response to the investment, the state is expected to use an estimated $2.65 million dollars from the Economic Development Highway Fund to carry through the Mississippi 19 south four-laning project.

This money will be used for the acquisition of rights-of-way in the stretch from Williamsville to Mississippi 19.

Despite having nearly $3 million, Craig Carter, Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall's administrative assistant, said the state does not have enough funding to acquire all of the right-of-way.

But Carter said it was a "first step" toward the project.

Bounds said, from a state level, the focus on Mississippi 19 would be to gain all the right-of-way acquisition, which he estimated would cost more than $10 million.

Neshoba County Board of Supervisors President Keith Lillis said Philadelphia and Neshoba County were fortunate that Weyerhaeuser chose to modernize here.

"This could have gone to any other plant but Philadelphia. This means that Stan Webb and the staff there are doing a good job."

The modernization will have a positive impact not only on Neshoba County and Philadelphia but also the surrounding area, he said.

Without the help of Gov. Bryant and others it "never would have happened," he said. "We are very appreciative of all their hard of work."

Philadelphia Mayor James A. Young said he is grateful for the huge investment and is proud that Weyerhaeuser is a part of "our family."

"I think it is a very positive sign of continuing growth of the industry and a good sign that they will continue to support our community through employment," the mayor said. "That's one reason we try our best to support them."

Weyerhaeuser's Philadelphia lumber mill is one of the longest-running manufacturing facilities in the company. The mill was purchased from DeWeese Lumber Company in 1967 and currently employs approximately 188 people.

The mill produces approximately 220 million board feet of Southern Yellow Pine two-inch dimension lumber, 2x4 through 2x12. Products are shipped to more than 140 customers in 30 states throughout the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast.

In Mississippi, Weyerhaeuser also operates lumber manufacturing in Bruce and Magnolia/McComb, a cellulose fiber facility in Columbus, a modified fibers facility in Columbus, real estate development in Columbus and Hattiesburg and a building material distribution center in Long Beach. Additionally, Weyerhaeuser substantiality manages more than 811,000 acres of timberland in 53 counties.

Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world's largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. It owns or controls nearly seven million acres of timberlands, primarily in the U.S., and manage another 14 million acres under long-term licenses in Canada.