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Johnson: Potential client for empty flooring plant looks promising

Topping the agenda of last week’s Mingo County Redevelopment Authority meeting was the subject of the wood flooring plant at the Wood Products Industrial Park.

Specifically, securing a client to reopen the plant and get it operational again after having been empty and unused in the nearly two years since Mohawk Flooring closed up shop and consequently eliminated a number of jobs in Mingo County.

Because of the ongoing help of Director/State Forester of the WV Division of Forestry and Williamson native Barry Cook, Executive Director Leasha Johnson said there now may be a realistic opportunity to secure a client and get the facility reopened.

Having taken on an expanded role in creating economic development related to wood products, Johnson said Cook has been using his expertise and knowledge regarding the availability and volume of hardwood in raw materials in West Virginia and has been aiding the

MCRA to recruit clients of several different backgrounds to the plant.

As a result of this recruitment, she explained, Cook has been working with a potential client who has expressed more than just a passing interest in the facility.

Johnson said the potential client, whose identity is not being publicly announced at this stage of the negotiations, has already made two visits to the site.

Cook attended last week’s meeting and told the board that the client has a specific business plan for the plant.

“They are basically proposing to come in and build a stave mill, which is a specialized saw mill that produces the components used to build whiskey and wine barrels,” he said. “They would also run the existing dry kilns by going out and procuring lumber from existing suppliers located within a couple of hundred miles of this location, which would be packaged and sold to hardwood producers around the world.”

Cook said the potential client is a well-established and large company that currently has six sawmills and drying facilities, and consequently appears to be a “substantial player” in the industry.

“Unfortunately this plant has been closed for about 18 months, and they go downhill pretty quick…things like dry kilns can deteriorate really fast,” Cook said. “That’s why I would encourage the board to actively pursue this because, in all reality, if this place sits idle another year, it’s going to be really difficult to attract anyone to it because of the cost to get it back up and running.”

Johnson said the potential client has not yet presented a specific proposal to the MCRA but has indicated the company’s capital entry costs of getting started are projected to be “rather significant.”

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