COVID-19 puts plans for wood products plant on hold
By Bruce Justice 04/24/2020
Plans for the wood products plant at the James H. "Buck" Harless Industrial Park that officials said had been progressing relatively well have for the time being been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That bit of discouraging news was conveyed to the Mingo County Redevelopment Board of Directors by Executive Director Leasha Johnson during last week's MCRA meeting, which also due to the stay-at-home and social distancing mandates had to be held via conference call. Johnson said two promising manufacturing prospects for the former Mohawk Flooring plant at the industrial park, one of which is a German company and the other a French, have delayed their pursuance of purchasing the plant at least until the current health emergency is over. "Both the German and French manufacturers remain interested, with the German company who had scheduled an actual site visit just waiting for the travel ban to be lifted before he comes," she said. "The French company is working with a site selection consultant who said the company is still interested in two West Virginia sites but that their due diligence for both those sites has just come to a stop. But hopefully both of those prospects will resume interest just as soon as the travel bands and executive orders are lifted." Regarding the proposed sale of the plant's dry kilns, Johnson explained that on the MCRA’s behalf. West Virginia Director of Forestry Barry Cook has been communicating with a sawmill owner who has expressed interested in the equipment. "We've asked this sawmill owner to make a to make a counter-offer," she said. "He wanted to visit the industrial park to be able to make an offer, but again COVID has delayed that, though he intends to make that visit when things start returning to normal." Johnson said the potential sale of the lumber handling equipment has been put on hold as well. She said a managing crew that had been onsite to disassemble, clean, and inventory the equipment has also left the property due to the coronavirus outbreak but will return when things normalize. "The contact that I had been dealing with informed me that the company they were hoping to buy the equipment has back out, so he's trying to spend this time during the shutdown to find other buyers," she said. Johnson offered a bit of better news by reporting that some of the stacking sticks at the plant have been or will be sold. She said about 14 bundles, approximately 2,000 sticks per bundle, will ultimately be sold at $.35 per stick.