CCDA names manufacturer of the year

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2019

VALLEY — There’s an old expression that money doesn’t grow on trees. Chambers County Development Authority Executive Director Valerie Gray said Tuesday that the local Norbord plant has disproven that.

“Money really does grow on trees,” she said in announcing that the Barton Mill plant was the 2019 Chambers County Manufacturer of the Year.

Norbord is a leading global manufacturer of wood-based panels with assets of $1.9 billion and annual sales of approximately $2.4 billion.

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Those numbers clearly show that the Toronto-based company has done great work of turning trees into money. The company has 17 plants in the U.S., Europe and Canada.

“Norbord first chose to locate in Chambers County in 1999,” Gray said. “In 2009, they curtailed their operation in the Huguley Industrial Park upon the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Five years later, ion 2014, the CCDA began discussions with the company about potentially restarting their operations here. In 2016, work began to rebuild the mill.”

On Nov. 8, 2017, Norbord resumed operations in Chambers County with a projected investment of $54 million.

When the mill closed in 2009, there were 127 people working there.

“They currently employ 139 full-time direct hires at the Lanett site including very competitive wages and benefit packages,” Gray said. “Using local labor is important to them. More than half of their labor force is from the local area. The company continuously uses four to five local contractors routinely to do maintenance at the mill. Norbord currently has 14 local loggers and 23 regional loggers that supply the raw timber for the mill.”

Since reopening Barton Mill two years ago, Norbord has continued to invest in the local plant. In 2018, they announced a planned expansion of $19.5 million. That expansion is on schedule and should be completed in 2020. Plans are being made for more capital investments in the coming years.

“The Lanett location has been positioned as the company’s flagship mill,” Gray said. “It’s the most automated and technically advanced mill in the company’s portfolio. It acts as a showcase for the company’s customers, both domestically and abroad. Norbord is not only producing OSB for housing but also furniture, campers and housing trailers and cabinets/fixtures. Norbord promotes safety and family before all else, as illustrated by their mission branding – ‘Stronger Together.’ They host regular employee appreciation events and contribute back to the community at every chance they get. Pleased join me in congratulating Norbord Alabama as our 2019 Manufacturer of the Year!”

A video was shown of the operations at Barton Mill. The action shots were accompanied by an instrumental version of Alan Jackson’s “Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee.”

A full house was on hand for Tuesday’s annual Chambers County Industry Appreciation Luncheon held in the Community Room at Valley Community Center.

“We spotlight one industry today, but we appreciate all of you,” said CCDA Board President Bobby Williams in welcoming everyone.

Gray told the big crowd that 2019 had been a very good year for commercial growth in the local area.

“It’s good to see retail activity going on,” she said. “Lanett has a fast-moving project with Tractor Supply and Valley has one with Four Star Freightliner.”