Anderson-Tully asks for congressman’s help

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Tony Parks, CEO for Anderson-Tully, left, explains the hardwood flooring finishing process to, from left, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson and Warren County Supervisors Charles Selmon and Michael Mayfield.(The Vicksburg Post/C. Todd Sherman )

[8/29/01]Officials from Warren County and Anderson-Tully Co. used a visit by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson Tuesday to lobby for his help in smoothing the process for financial help with more expansion.

Thompson toured the plant ATCO is building to make its new line of Capella engineered hardwood flooring. The company announced plans to build the plant in 2000 and started production in January even though construction remains under way.

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“From my humble definition of what I thought a sawmill used to be to where we are today is quite impressive,” Thompson said.

In a briefing before touring the flooring plant, Tony Parks, CEO of the firm that started out building wooden boxes in Vicksburg more than 100 years ago, said even though ATCO accounts for less than 1 percent of hardwood flooring production, it is still one of the five largest hardwood producers in the nation. He also said the finishing operation used in the new plant is the most advanced in the industry.

When it was announced, company officials said the expansion was expected to cost $22 million to $25 million.

Parks told Thompson the company has added about 170 employees to the 500 already working at its sawmill in nearby Waltersville. When the expansion is complete, he said, flooring plant employment will be about 350 in two shifts.

“If the economy comes out of this slump next year, we project the expansion will come in about two to three years,” Parks said.

He said another part of the company’s plans is to consolidate its land holdings closer to Vicksburg. The company owns about 300,000 acres of bottomland and upland hardwood timber land along the Mississippi River. Some of it is north of Memphis, the company’s headquarters.

Parks said company officials decided to sell off some land north of Memphis and acquire land closer to Vicksburg.

“That’s one of the ways we can compete in the international market,” he said.

An important part of the land deal, Parks said, is an arrangement to sell the land north of Memphis to the federal government for recreation purposes. He said the company intends to use the proceeds from that sale to finance purchases of land closer to Vicksburg.

Thompson said he was familiar with the plan and said a bill in the House contained about $2 million for it and one in the Senate listed the figure at about $3 million.

“We think this is extremely valuable to Vicksburg, Warren County and the 2nd District,” Thompson said.

Members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors also used Thompson’s visit to plug for support for more Community Development Block Grants the county is seeking to help ATCO with its expansion.

“We look on that as a job-creation program,” Thompson said in response to a comment from District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale.

“One of the things we want to do is to help local businesses prosper. It’s a good partnership,” Thompson added, urging ATCO to hire as many people as possible.