DOBSON — Following a brief public hearing, the Surry County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an incentive package economic development officials say will go a long way toward securing more than 100 existing jobs in the county.
The action came as the board met for its regular monthly meeting in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Surry County Government Center in Dobson.
The public hearing, on a project known as Project Press, was for an incentive package of not more than $85,300 that will be used to provide sewer service to the existing business located on the outskirts of Elkin.
Weyerhauser, a mill located at 524 Pride Way in Elkin, is expected to spend about $770,000 to extend sewer lines from its property line to the manufacturing facility, according to information provided to the county commissioners.
Weyerhauser pitched discussion on the need for the infrastructure improvements in early February. Mill officials held an open meeting with county commissioners, state elected officials and the press, but went into a closed meeting with the commissioners and the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority during an afternoon session.
Since the meeting, an economic incentive plan had developed.
Addressing the board during the public hearing Monday, the only speaker, Surry County Economic Development Partnership Director Todd Tucker, told the board that the money will be used to help retain the 134 jobs the company offers in the county.
Tucker confirmed Tuesday that Weyerhauser is the company involved in the incentive package.
“Usually, we come here and talk about new businesses coming to town,” he told the board. “But today we’re helping an existing company that has been here for over 20 years.”
The company offers an average salary of more than $46,000, Tucker said, and will continue to invest in the community.
“This money isn’t going to the company, it’s going to the contractors who will be working on the project,” he said. “This $85,000 will end up leveraging more than $1.4 million when all is said and done for the sewer service, and that’s just the costs the company will end up expending on the sewer line. They also plan on investing another $1.6 million over the next several years on equipment.”
And while the business doesn’t plan on any initial hiring as a result of the investment, Tucker told the board that doesn’t mean jobs won’t become available in the future.
“About 75 percent of their workforce will reach retirement age over the next five years,” he said. “They’re going to need to hire people to replace them.”
Tucker said the company is critical to the southern part of the county.
Following Tucker’s address to the board, the incentive package was approved on a motion by Commissioner Paul Johnson with a second by Commissioner Larry Phillips.
According to the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority, who will extend a main line to the Weyerhauser property, officials said that they’re not experiencing any out-of-pocket expenses on the improvements.
“We are not anticipating any net costs. We are funding the project through the county at this point and are securing grants,” said John Holcomb, YVSA secretary and treasurer.
“Right now the facility is treating their own waste, but long term that’s not in their best interest. They’ll be transfering the waste to the YVSA. Doing so will allow us to treat the waste and will also allow the mill operation to grow,” continued Holcomb. “Weyerhauser is a great community partner and they’re thinking of decisions that will impact them years later. It means they want to stay here for the long run.”
At the end of 2012, the company employed about 13,200 employees worldwide and generated more than $7.1 billion in sales.
The Elkin mill started up in 1986. The Elkin mill has 134 team members, 76 who handle operations, 28 in the maintenance field, and 30 are salaried positions. Most work under the 231,616-square-foot facility that sits on more than 380 acres of property. The mill operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The average wage for operations team members is $18.31 an hour and maintenance team members is $23.29 an hour.
According to Weyerhauser, 40 employees have been with Weyerhaeuser since the mill start up in 1986.
Anthony Gonzalez contributed to this report. Gonzalez may be reached at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.