TOP 10 of 2018: Vicksburg Forest Products buys Anderson-Tully, saving jobs

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, December 22, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the No. 7 story in The Vicksburg Post’s Top 10 stories of 2018.

A potential economic development crisis was averted in March when Jackson-based Vicksburg Forest Products announced the purchase of the Anderson-Tully mill on North Washington Street, saving 125 jobs.

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The Forestland Group of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which bought Anderson-Tully in 2006, announced in March it was selling the plant as part of a “winding down” of the company’s ownership of Anderson-Tully, which had operated in Vicksburg since 1889.

The plant reopened in June with a ceremony featuring Gov. Phil Bryant and local officials.

“We had to put about $5 million worth of new equipment in to handle southern pine,” Vicksburg Forest Products manager William Van Devender Jr. said during the program.

“What we are doing is we are making it flexible enough that we are going to start out in pine, but if the hardwood business were to pick up, we have the flexibility that we can start buying hardwood logs. There are only three other mills in the south that I know about that can cut pine and hardwood and we are going to be one of them. If that market picks up, then we can cut both.

“We are going to be a full dimensional mill,” he said. “We are going to cut decking, all kinds of dimensions of lumber. That is what our goal is. We won’t be at 100 million board feet this year, but hopefully by next year we will be.”

Vicksburg Forest Products’ acquisition of the mill was possible through a federal opportunity zone program that uses federal tax dollars to revitalize low-income areas in communities.

Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and chairman of the Opportunity and Revitalization Council organized by President Donald Trump, said Thursday during a visit of the plant that Vicksburg Forest Products was one of the first companies to take advantage of the opportunity zones and opportunity funds.

“Had it not been for that program, it would very likely that this place would have closed down and those jobs gone away,” Carson said.

“This should be the model for the nation,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “This is the model for the opportunity zone. This is the first in the state and maybe in the nation. We’ve been able to model it to a point where the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development wants to come see it. This is job creation 101.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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