WINONA – Ground work is winding down at the site of the future Biewer Lumber saw mill, being constructed at the corner of Highway 51 and Sawyer Road just north of Winona. The company is anticipating concrete being poured in the coming weeks – 80 acres of concrete.
“All concrete mixing will be done on the site, and it actually will start this week,” said Blake Biewer, who is slated to become general manager of the Winona mill when it is completed. “It all depends on the weather. That is the limiting factor.”
According to Biewer, the mill should be operational by the first of the year.
In January, Biewer Lumber announced its plans to invest $130 million to build its second saw mill in Mississippi, which is expected to bring more than 150 new jobs to Montgomery County. The company already operates a mill in Newton which has been operating since January 2017 and was expanded in 2019, bringing more than 150 jobs with it.
The two Mississippi mills are a part of Biewer Lumber’s family of companies, which also includes two mills in Michigan, one mill in Wisconsin, and lumber treatment plants in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois. Biewer Lumber is a family-owned today.
According to an interview in the Jan./Feb. 2017 edition of “Timber Processing Magazine,” owner Tim Biewer said his grandfather, John A. Biewer, settled in St. Clair, Michigan, and opened a fishing boat rental business, John A. Biewer Co., and a bait and tackle shop.
He told the trade magazine, “We got in the lumber business because a guy rented a fishing boat all summer and couldn’t pay for it. He told my grandfather, ‘Hey for letting me use the boat all summer, I’ll trade you some logs.’ So my grandfather had the logs sawn and started selling lumber out of the back of the boat livery.”
Initially opening three lumber treatment facilities in the Midwest, the company built its first red pine mill in McBain, Mich., to supply its treatment facilities. Eventually, the company built another mill in Prentice, Wisc., and purchased another mill in Pine Tech in Lake City.
Tim Biewer stated that the company’s decision to look in the southeast was due to the great supply of pine in the south. The company settled on Newton, and then looked north to Montgomery County.
For Blake Biewer, son of Tim Biewer and part of the fourth generation of Biewer Lumber, he never imagined a future in anything but the timber business.
“I started pretty early,” he said. “I was about 12.”
Brother Nick Biewer works for one of the family’s lumber treatment plants.
In 2020, Blake Biewer moved to Brandon to work under Dan Bowman, the general manager of the Newton mill. Bowman has spent his entire career in the timber business, coming to Biewer from Georgia Pacific.
Blake Biewer explained that because there is a great opportunity for expansion, the company began analyzing the availability of timber around the southeast.
“This area is the best timber basket we could find,” he said. “We were still deciding on where to expand when the property became available [in Montgomery County], and we looked at the site.”
He explained that in getting the development of a new saw mill to where it is now – under construction – it took “a lot of moving parts.”
The sawmill will be a total investment of $143 million, with Biewer Lumber investing $132 million. Incentives worth more than $11 million were committed by Montgomery County, Mississippi Development Authority, Appalachian Regional Authority, and ATMOS. Montgomery County purchased the land for $600,000 and took out a Capital Improvements Revolving Loan (CAP) for $2.2 million to improve the infrastructure surrounding the mill, including road improvements, expansion of the City of Winona water lines and sewer, extension of the city’s fire line, and improvements to the railroad, with plans for a rail spur to serve the mill.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with Sue [Stidham of the Montgomery County Economic Development Partnership], Mike [Sullivan of the Montgomery County Economic Development District], and Ron [Wood, president of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors],” he said.
Now with work underway, Blake Biewer spends most of his time overseeing construction at the site. And when the mill is finally operational, he will settle in Winona with his fiancé, Katie, whom he plans to wed this summer. He said he is looking forward to living here in Winona. Both he and Katie grew up in small towns similar to this one.
Biewer Lumber will begin hiring this fall, with management positions filled in September and the remaining positions in October.