ROWESVILLE — If Orangeburg County lands the state’s largest sawmill, it could gain up to 300 jobs and a better option for its timber owners, according to forestry and business officials.
German-based Klausner Holding USA Inc. is considering placing a lumber mill on approximately 248 acres at 3374 Rowesville Road, between Rowesville and Orangeburg.
“If we do land the mill, it would be an absolute positive factor for our landowners,” Orangeburg County Forestry Commission Area Forester Walt Woodrum said.
“It will mean an additional market for their wood and it could possibly lead to better timber prices for landowners in our area.”
An air permit application filed with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control says the company wants to produce multi-dimensional, dried lumber and byproducts, such as bark, wood chips, sawdust and dry shavings.
The facility, which could operate around the clock, will have a maximum annual production of 700 million board-feet per year.
The proposed mill will include log storage and processing; sawmill operations; sorter line operations; biomass-fired hot water heaters; natural gas-fired hot water heaters; drying kilns; planer mill operations; lumber load out and miscellaneous support equipment, such as emergency engines.
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson declined commenting on specifics of the project, noting that he has signed a confidentiality agreement with the company.
But he did say in general the plant would be a significant investment above the county average. He also said there is spin-off potential.
“That is not uncommon with these larger, more successful companies,” he said.
The plant will initially supply about 1 million to 2 million tons of lumber a year.
Clemson Extension forestry agent Beth Richardson said the prospect of the new sawmill is “wonderful.”
“It gives us another outlet where right now you have to travel to a sawmill about 60 or 70 miles,” she said. “We have had so many close in the past five years.”
Richardson said the mill will not compete with local saw mills but those that are farther away.
“When there is a lower hauling distance, you are putting more money into the landowner’s pocket,” Richardson said. “The farther it is to the mill, the more you charge for hauling.”
Cox Industries Chief Executive Officer Michael Johnson said the introduction of Klausner would possibly mean new export opportunities for the company.
He said Cox and others “would see reduced inbound freight rates in the area and many markets for new products. We would have some concern about initially increased stumpage prices in the area.”
Orangeburg County can look forward to 150 to 300 jobs, plus additional jobs created as a result, if Klausner locates here, Johnson said.
S.C. Forestry Commission Resource Development Division Director Tim Adams said even if Orangeburg County lands the sawmill, the economic downturn is expected to delay its opening.
The company is also looking at sites near the North Carolina-Virginia border and north Florida.
Adams said the mill would be the largest in South Carolina, and its arrival would be big news.
“It will be important for forest landowners because it will give them another market for their wood,” he said.
The harvesting and tree replacement that will result from the mill locating here will also be a boon for the entire state, he said. “Tree planting is at a 30-year low. It would create land that will be available for tree plantings that would be owned by private landowners in Orangeburg to create value on their land and create an opportunity for them to reforest.”
Adams said the Forestry Commission began talking to Klausner about two years ago and determined the company would have access to the wood it needs to be successful.
“The wood supply is here and I think the Charleston port accessibility was very attractive to them,” Adams said.
The company has not commented on the project.
According to the company’s DHEC permit application, wood will be transported to the mill as tree-length saw logs and taken to the on-site storage area.
The tree bark would be removed from the logs and used as fuel for biomass boilers or sold as a byproduct.
The logs would then processed to the required lumber sizes. Chips and sawdust would be used for biomass boilers.
The final lumber board products will be graded, sorted by length, packaged and stored in the finished lumber storage area.
Mold protection, colors, ink or lacquer may be applied to the finished lumber.
The Klausner Group was founded in 1991, when Austrian Fritz Klausner built his first mill in former East Germany.
In 2004, Klausner Holz Sachsen, located on the border with Poland and the Czech Republic, went into production.
The company and sales management office, Klausner Trading International, has its headquarters in Oberndorf, Austria. The company has offices and plants in Europe, the Middle East, India and China.
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