Gov. Tate Reeves was in Winona on April 21 for a site visit to the recently opened Biewer Lumber.
Headquartered in St. Clair, Michigan, Biewer Lumber has two sawmills in that state, two in Wisconsin, one in Newton, Miss. and now, one in Winona, according to the company’s website.
During Reeve’s visit to the lumber company’s Winona location, he toured the facility with Montgomery County officials.
“Biewer Lumber’s expansion to Winona was tremendous news for our economy,” said Reeves. “This $130 million investment will create over 150 high-quality jobs. That’s over 150 Mississippians who can better support their families and their communities.”
Biewer Sawmill Winona Inc., the company’s second Mississippi location, broke ground in the spring of 2021, and operations began last month. The state-of-the-art facility will produce more than 250 MMBF annually, according to the website.
“I witnessed firsthand the impressive sawmill that’s been built and greatly look forward to seeing the continued impact of our partnership with Biewer Lumber on our state,” said Reeves.
Biewer Forest Management works with woodland owners to help them achieve their forest management goals, whether wildlife management, timber production or recreation, the website stated.
According to Blake Biewer, plant manager, the sawmill, which sits on 150 acres, is comprised of multiple buildings, serving a variety of purposes.
“We have the main sawmill building that includes the sawmill line as well as planer line under one roof. This is where all the lumber production is done, the sawmill breaks down the log into "rough green" boards before they are dried. The planer line finishes the dried board and processes it down to the correct width, thickness, and length,” said Biewer.
He added the sawmill has three natural gas dry kilns, six finished lumber sheds and two dried lumber sheds.
Biewer Lumber’s decision to build in Winona had three factors, including the vast availability of timber within a one-hour radius of the site that was being under harvested, according to Blake Biewer.
Another factor that attracted the company was the site location, including the Grenada rail line, close access to Mississippi Highway 82 as well as Interstate 55, natural gas through Atmos as well as electricity supplied through Entergy.
“We also had some positive synergies having our Newton, Miss, sawmill within two hours of the site,” said Biewer. “The third factor was the workforce in the area.”
Through the Mississippi Development Authority representatives of Biewer Lumber reached out to Montgomery County officials and personnel at the Montgomery County Economic Development District (EDD), such as Director Sue Stidham.
Stidham worked with Montgomery County Supervisors and Mike Sullivan, EDD president, to purchase land from Margie Curtis Johnson to house the sawmill.
“She was great to work with, and she made it affordable for the county,” said Stidham.
Stidham said the supervisors agreed to borrow $2.5 million to make improvements to Sawyer Road, and representatives from Biewer agreed to make payments on the loan for the first 10 years.
“It’s a sign of progress,” said Stidham. “We feel like we’re all winners.”
She said the new sawmill will bring good jobs with good benefits like employers, Screw Conveyor and Anel.
Stidham said securing Biewer Lumber as a new business and employer took the efforts of many local officials, including former Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers and Board of Aldermen.
“I appreciate Jerry and the Board for working with us in bringing Briewer,” said Stidham.
Flowers said, after reading about Biewer’s Newton location, he knew the company would be a good fit for this area.
“It’s outside of Winona, but we benefit,” said Flowers.
He said the family-oriented company could offer a variety of benefits to the people of Montgomery County.
According to Biewer Lumber website, several divisions exist within the Biewer Lumber family, including Biewer Trading, Biewer Logistics and Biewer Treating and Distribution along with forest management, according to the lumber company’s website.
This division is committed to “broadening the practice of sustainable forestry, ensuring prompt reforestation, protecting water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat.”
Biewer Forest Management also is dedicated to “minimizing the visual impact of harvesting, protecting special sites, contributing to biodiversity and continuing improvements in wood utilization,” the site stated.
Biewer said currently there are not any concrete plans to add production to the Winona site.
“We will spend the remainder of the year ensuring we get the mill to full production capabilities,” he said.