By JOEL McNEECE
Safety, low cost of raw materials, and an “outstanding” workforce were reasons Jerry Nix told the Bruce Chamber Monday that Weyerhaeuser in Bruce is “well positioned” for the future.
“Bruce is competitive with any lumber mill we have in Weyerhaeuser,” said Nix, area manager of Weyerhaeuser's Gulf South region.
Nix explained that's a product of the second lowest raw materials cost in the company, the great availability of quality wood for purchase, and one of the best “converting jobs” (tree to lumber) in the company.
“The biggest difference is our people,” Nix said. “It's why people are willing to invest in this community, because of the work ethic we have here.”
Nix said he's worked in several areas of the country, and nowhere compares to this area.
Nix said Weyerhaeuser currently employs approximately 185 people in Bruce. That's down from a peak of 204 five years ago, but Nix said that's because the mill has been able to maintain production levels.
Nix said the mill's air permit will only allow them to produce 225 million board feet per year. The record for the mill is 224 million. He said they're currently producing 219 million.
Nix said they are at 90% capacity right now. He said they typically shut down for one week a year, July 4, to allow for the boiler maintenance.
Nix explained the lumber industry is closely related to “housing starts,” which dropped from 1.6 million per year to 560,000 annually over the past four years.
“As a company we've still grown market share over that time,” Nix said.
Nix also stressed the safety accomplishments of the Bruce mill.
“We've gone three years without a recordable injury," Nix said. "It's been six since a loss-time injury. We spend a lot of time, effort and energy everyday on safety.”
Nix said growth is still sought by the company for the Bruce mill. He said they are interested in acquiring some of the former Memphis Hardwood property, but are waiting for legal matters between the current deed holder and the town to get settled. The mill currently sits on 44 acres.
“In order to grow and get bigger like we want to in Bruce, we need more space,” Nix said.
In the meantime, Nix is confident the Bruce mill will continue to be a top performer for Weyerhaeuser.
“I feel good about where we stand,” Nix said. “What we have here is exciting to me. We have a lot of good things going for us compared to other areas. We're well positioned to withstand this economy.”
In other news, Bruce Chamber President Daniel Hathorne said the organization is more than halfway toward its fundraising goal of $1,000 to pay for a new website for the town at Monday's lunch meeting at Jeffery's.
“We certainly encourage everyone to support this," Hathorne said. "We hope to have this up and running before Christmas.”
Lions Club President Jerry Janci announced the Bruce Christmas Parade will be Saturday, Dec. 3 and the theme will be “Remember Our Military at Christmas.” The theme was submitted by Carol Bullard. She won a $25 gift certificate for the winning suggestion in the theme contest.
Bruce Museum Committee Chairman Joel McNeece reported the museum is still being reserved by groups regularly, but the committee would be meeting later this week to begin planning for Christmas events in the facility.
More than 30 people attended the chamber luncheon where the 20th Century Club provided desserts in appreciation for the work the chamber does promoting Bruce.