An Austrian lumber company plans to build a $130 million sawmill near Live Oak, Florida employing 350 people, a project touted as a shot in the arm to the local economy while also raising concerns about its impact on the timber supply and competing sawmills as well as its cost to taxpayers.
The Klausner Group would build the mill on U.S. 90 just north of Interstate 10 and another in North Carolina to turn Southern yellow pine into 2x4s and other dimensional lumber for the construction industry.
The mill is expected to have a $56 million annual economic impact and create an additional 600 jobs for suppliers and from the additional spending in the community, according to estimates by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). It also would be a boon to timberland owners, who have seen demand and prices for timber fall from the collapse of the housing market that has started to rebound.
The Klausner project is what Florida legislators had in mind when they created incentives to lure businesses to catalyst sites through the Rural Areas of Economic Concern program. The idea is to bring in companies that will draw additional businesses and provide enough jobs to have an impact that extends to surrounding counties.
Dennis Cason, president of the Suwannee County Economic Alliance, said he already is working with companies that could use Klausner’s byproducts — sawdust, wood chips, dry shavings and bark — such as pellet and plywood manufacturers.