Weekly column written for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson:
Glenwood is a sawmill town that is on the rebound, and the townsfolk are excited.
I saw this firsthand last week when I went to Glenwood to cut the ribbon for Caddo River Forest Products. Caddo River is a new company that is reopening the old Curtis Bean sawmill that shut down in 2010.
Glenwood is in the part of the state we call the Wood Basket, where you can see the strength of Arkansas’s timber industry in the hundreds of thousands of acres of trees.
The closing of the Bean mill threw 300 people out of work. Some people moved away. Others drove long distances to work. School enrollment fell.
Seven years later, though, the sawmill is up and running, backed by investors who know the business. The state has helped, but it was the local support that made the critical difference. In addition, a local café has reopened and a real-estate company is opening an office there.
Billy Plyler is one of the many people I met in the planing shed at the ceremony on Thursday. Billy’s family owns John Plyler’s Home Center, which started as a plumbing store in the 1940s, then added lumber. Now it sells a little bit of everything. The company celebrated its 70th anniversary this year.
Billy, who has lived his entire 63 years in Glenwood, said business has fallen off 40 percent over the past seven years. But in the year since Caddo started refurbishing the mill, sales have picked up. Plyler’s even sold Caddo River its new flagpole.
The mill has hired about 100 people already, and every job in the mill represents another job in the logging woods.
Billy is of the opinion that a sawmill creates more indirect jobs than any other industry.
“They have got to have somebody in the woods getting logs to them,” Billy said.
The news is all good. Plyler’s will sell lumber milled at Caddo River. “I hope I’m the first load out of there,” Billy said.
At Thursday’s event, the podium was bordered by thousands of board feet of two-by-sixes that are waiting to be dried and planed. The lumber is evidence that the perseverance and hard work of so many will pay off.
I see a lot of good days ahead as our state is attracting industry from around the world even as we take care of business with our Arkansas-grown industries such as the Caddo River sawmill in Glenwood.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Republican. State Capitol Room 250, 500 Woodlane St., Little Rock, 72201. 501-682-2345.