New sawmill all the buzz with south Ala. grand opening

Grand opening for new south Ala. sawmill

ABBEVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s all the buzz in Henry County, the largest ever economic development project in county history. And now, it’s open. Tuesday, state and local officials celebrated the grand opening of the Abbeville sawmill.

It was a packed house for the opening of the state-of-the-art Abbeville Fiber facility, which also unveiled a new name.

Gov. Kay Ivey was on hand for the occasion and toured the facility.

“What I have seen here today represents the best of Alabama," she said. "Good people who are proud of their work and doing it to the best of their ability. There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm here, a belief that the future holds great promise. The workers here are a part of building something special for the local community and our state.”

The project, which has an investment to-date of more than $40 million, already employs 65 people. They’ve been staying busy. Since the first load came in on July 8, they’ve been processing nearly 45 trucks a day filled with locally-sourced logs.

Those 65 are about to have some help. Over the next year, the company plans to expand to 115 employees and double the number of trucks it gets per day.

Abbeville Fiber has one client. Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc., whose president and CEO, Jimmy Rane, is no stranger to the timber industry. Speaking to the crowds, he said it’s come full circle.

It was his father who helped bring West Point Pepperell to Abbeville. Unfortunately, that facility closed in 2007. Now, Rane is excited to bring back jobs.

"It's a great feeling to know you've done your duty and restore something that was lost," said Rane.

"We've often wondered if there would ever come a time that would all change. Today is that day," said David Money, Henry County Commission Chair.

Shaenea Stanford is a machine operator at the mill. She remembers walking through the facility when she worked in the packaging department at West Point Pepperell.

"Being here in Abbeville with no opportunities and to now one of the greatest opportunities to be able to work here," said Stanford.

But it’s not just jobs - the power of the investment is felt in economic dollars. Since reopening the facility, the city of Abbeville has increased the gross sales dollars by 58 percent since West Point Peppeerll closed.

During the announcement, Rane brought the sawmill’s general manager, Michael Lancaster, up on stage. It was then that he announced Abbeville Fiber would be renamed Lancaster Mill in Lancaster’s honor. Rane said Lancaster worked closely with him to get the project growing and off the ground.

During the announcement, Rane brought the sawmill’s general manager, Michael Lancaster, up on stage. It was then that he announced Abbeville Fiber would be renamed Lancaster Mill in Lancaster’s honor. Rane said Lancaster worked closely with him to get the project growing and off the ground.

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