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  • Allen Turner

Commissioners okay Economic Development Grant for IP

The Columbus County board of commissioners recently voted unanimously to approve nearly $3.5 million in incentives for the International Paper (IP) plant at Riegelwood.

The grants are payable over a five-year period in return for making $128 million in investments for extensive upgrades to install a new production line at the plant.

The line will enhance IP’s competitiveness, Gary Lanier, economic development director for Columbus County told commissioners in recent weeks. IP recently divested itself of one product manufactured in Columbus County and intends to expand its local production capacity of another product to be manufactured at the plant in Riegelwood. A second production line to manufacture a fluff paper product will be added, Lanier said.

That comes after IP sold their Carolina Brands Paper product,which had been manufactured at the Riegelwood facility, to another company.

Employees who operated the Carolina Brands production line now will operate the second fluff line. Without the addition of the new fluff production line, the employees who had worked on the Carolina Brands line would no longer be needed.

The annual grant payments will be made each year only after property taxes for the previous year have been paid. The expansion project involves a total investment of $128 million in physical plant and additional equipment at the county’s largest county employer.

Awarding of the grant came after an advertised public hearing in which no one voiced opposition to the grant. Samantha Alsup of the economic development office introduced plant manager Floyd Whitmire to the board, who spoke briefly of the company’s plans for expansion.

In other business, commissioners:

• Adopted a proclamation of appreciation to the Concerned Citizens of the Lake Waccamaw recognizing the 18th annual St. James Waccamaw Siouan Festival

• Deferred action on a request by Tabor City Town Manager Al Leonard that the county donate some benches from the historic courthouse to the Tabor City District Court Building. They decided it would not be prudent to make a decision until after they have finalized their options for renovations at the old courthouse; and

• Heard department updates from Aging Department director Amanda Harrelson and Social Services director Algernon McKenzie.

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