Gloster Forest Products Receives Award at The Mississippi Economic Development Council’s 2023 Legislative Conference
February 15, 2023
Source: Cooperative Energy
The Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC) announced that Project Valley Creek won the Category I, Business Attraction, 2022 Community Economic Development Award (CEDA) on February 9th, 2023.
The CEDA program is a “Best Practices” program intended to recognize exceptional contributions of communities in the State of Mississippi for the following efforts: business retention & expansion, business recruitment, community development, and community involvement.
In April 2022, Mississippi-based, Gloster Forest Products broke ground on a $200 million state-of-the-art sawmill in Gloster, Amite County. The largest private investment in the town and county’s recent history, the project announcement will create 131 new direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs in the region. The sawmill will be built on the site of the former Georgia-Pacific mill which was shuttered in 2008. Gloster Forest Products recognized the area had abundant timber to support a dimensional lumber mill and was untapped by competitors. The company evaluated 60+ locations before settling on Gloster. Mayor Norwood and local leaders met each challenge with a desire to reach mutually beneficial compromises. Public roads were inopportune for site access, so the community worked to close and reroute existing roadways for more efficient traffic flow for both the company and constituents. Portions of the property required rezoning. The Mayor, working with a Town Hall staff of two, gained rezoning approval in the shortest amount of time legally possible. Small surrounding parcels needed to be acquired to fit the optimal facility layout, so the community worked with public and private entities to acquire the necessary land in record time. The community worked with Southwest Electric and Cooperative Energy to secure funding for electric upgrades to serve the facility. No hurdle was met without an innovative, timely, and mutually beneficial solution.
Behind the scenes:
- Gloster Forest Products is owned by CLAW Forestry, LLC. CLAW is owned by Mississippi native, Billy VanDevender, and headquartered in Jackson, Miss. CLAW gained national attention as the first company in the nation to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone Tax Credit program at its Vicksburg Forest Products mill.
- The former Georgia-Pacific mill site has a roller coaster past in the community. The mill opened in 1967; however, after 35 years of continuous operations, on December 1, 2002, stating market conditions, the company indefinitely closed the facility. Local leaders advocated for the importance of the mill, doing everything within control to change the outcome; however, national market forces were uncontrollable. The mill sat relatively empty for three years until the fateful storm of 2005, Hurricane Katrina. Although Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state and region, it provided a small beacon of hope for Gloster. Mass destruction required mass rebuilding, which created a mass need for plywood. Working with Governor, Haley Barbour, community leaders recognized the immediate need to harvest damaged and downed timber in the region to prevent vast timber losses. On September 16, 2005, just 14 days after Hurricane Katrina, Georgia-Pacific announced the reopening of the Gloster plywood mill which would employ 350 and bring much-needed economic revitalization to the town, state, and region. In December 2008, stating market conditions, Georgia-Pacific announced the closure of the Gloster mill. The former mill site sat vacant for the next few years. The abandoned location served as a bittersweet landmark in the community until it burned to the ground in 2012. The fire made certain the mill would never reopen, and shortly after, the town purchased the property for the opportunity to attract new industry and investment to the site.
- From day one, Mayor Norwood understood the importance of attracting new investment and job opportunities to the town. He, himself, has a 2+ hour daily commute into Louisiana for his full-time job. The project provides the opportunity for constituents to find work locally.
To learn more about Project Valley Creek contact:
Director of Economic Development, Cooperative Energy
201 N. President St.
Jackson, MS 39201