TALLADEGA -- Georgia-Pacific is coming back to Talladega.

The company “plans to construct a $100 million lumber production facility in Talladega that will employ more than 100 full-time employees and generate an annual payroll estimated at $5 million,” according to a Wednesday press release. “Construction on the technologically advanced, 300,000 square foot plant is scheduled to begin immediately, with an anticipated startup in 2018.”

The release says “the project will provide jobs for approximately 120 workers a day at the peak of the 12-month construction period. According to (the) University of Alabama’s economic modeling, the project will have an estimated economic impact of more than $26 million on the city and county during construction.”

Once in production, the new facility will receive about 150 log trucks a day and produce approximately 230 million board-feet of lumber a year, with plans to expand production to 300 million board-feet per year in the future, according to the release.

Talladega City Manager Patrick Bryant said, “We are extremely proud that Talladega continues to be the choice for commerce in Alabama. We had a great relationship with GP at the plywood mill and we look forward to another long-term successful partnership.”

Talladega County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Calvin Miller added, “Georgia-Pacific has seven other wood and paper-related operating plants in the state. This expansion illustrates their commitment to Talladega, Talladega County and the state of Alabama for many years to come.”

Gov. Kay Ivey spoke to the significance of the announcement beyond Talladega’s city limits.

“Georgia-Pacific’s new investment in Talladega will bring good jobs and enhanced opportunities to the area’s citizens while also benefiting timber owners in the region,” she said in the release. “I am committed to working closely with businesses like Georgia-Pacific, which has a significant presence in the state, as we demonstrate to the world that Alabama is open for business and eager to form strong partnerships.”

Standard incentives

Senior manager  Rick Kimble said Wednesday that the company is planning to take advantage of the standard incentives offered by the state, including sales and property tax abatements for up to 10 years, as well as use of Alabama’s “impressive work force training program,” although he could not specifically say to what extent the latter would be used.

Taxes that fund education cannot be abated in Alabama.

The city of Talladega, he said, was offering infrastructure improvements, including a sewer connection and road improvements that would alleviate some of the truck traffic congestion that had been an issue when the plant was opened before.

Kimble said any average starting salary figure he could give would be misleading because it would include hourly and salaried workers, but promised that the pay would be competitive.

Georgia-Pacific operated a plywood mill in Talladega for more than three decades before closing in 2008, resulting in the loss of some 380 jobs. The new facility will be on the site of the former mill, according to the release.

Although the Talladega mill has been dormant for nearly a decade, the company did continue security and maintenance, and continued to use it for storage. The company's activity is tied closely to the housing market.

A ‘totally different’ facility

When the new facility opens, Kimble said it will be “totally different from what was there before. The old one was a plywood plant, which is a much more labor intensive process. That’s why there were more employees there before; it’s a different process.

“To make plywood, you basically put a log on a huge lathe and make sheets of veneer that are then pressed together. With a lumber plant, you debark the logs like you would for plywood, then they are all scanned by a computer that then tells the saws what should come out, how many 2 by 4s, 2 by 6s and 2 by 8s. You want to maximize all the pieces. Then the boards are all graded, sorted and stacked.”

Georgia-Pacific has more than 2,300 employees at seven facilities in Alabama that represent an additional 8,600 indirect jobs. In the last five years, the Atlanta-based company has invested approximately $1.1 billion in additional capital and acquisitions in Alabama, according to the release.

“The availability of talent and natural resources makes Talladega an ideal site for this new lumber production facility,” said Fritz Mason, vice president and general manager, Georgia-Pacific Lumber. “The city of Talladega, Talladega County, and the state of Alabama have been incredibly supportive of this new venture, and we look forward to a long and beneficial relationship.

“This new facility is the first of several we have in our current plan,” Mason added. “The demand for lumber continues to improve as the housing market recovers, so we are evaluating similar investments in Georgia, Texas and Mississippi.”  

None of the Talladega jobs had been posted as of Wednesday afternoon, but they should be up soon. Applicants should visit www.GP.com/careers to see current positions and to apply.