Timberland in St. Helena Parish

Timber is big business in St. Helena with more than 200,000 acres of it across the parish.

Plans are underway for a new $90 million specialty sawmill project in St. Helena, the most sparsely populated parish in the Baton Rouge metro area with roughly 10,000 residents. 

The new sawmill is expected to hire 95 full-time workers by 2022 and support 120 construction jobs when built along La. 10 in Greensburg, according to state economic development records. 

Florida Parishes Forest Products LLC was incorporated in early July and is co-owned by Carlos Lindsey McMorris and Wayne Leroy Hagan, state records show. McMorris is also the founder of MCM Builders LLC. 

Attempts to reach the co-owners by phone were unsuccessful Monday morning. 

The project was on the St. Helena Policy Jury agenda in late July, but the item was tabled at the time, according to the parish, whose president was in hurricane preparation meetings and unavailable for comment. The company filed economic incentive agreement documentation with the state for the project in early August. 

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In exchange for the capital investment, the business owners are seeking two economic incentives. One is the quality jobs program, which is a cash rebate to companies up to 6% of annual gross payroll for no more than 10 years in addition to a state sales and use tax rebate on capital expenditures. The other is the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which would exempt the new sawmill from 80% of property taxes for up to the first 10 years. Under the old program, property tax exemption was up to 100% and some contracts are grandfathered in. 

If the local school board, sheriff's office and policy jury do not send documentation to the state about their tax decisions, the Board of Commerce and Industry is expected to grant the full Industrial Tax Exemption requested for the project since nonresponse is interpreted as an affirmative decision. 

Timber is big business in St. Helena with more than 200,000 acres of it across the parish. Forest management company Soterra is the fifth-largest taxpayer in the parish, just behind utility companies and a 50-acre Dow manufacturing facility known as Amerchol, which creates personal care and topical pharmaceutical products. 

There are several other businesses which cater to the timber industry in St. Helena Parish, such as Pine Grove Lumber Co. LLC and Barnes Lumber Co., each with fewer than two dozen employees, but also Paul Davis Lumber Co. and just over the parish line Cypress Sawmill.

Email Kristen Mosbrucker at kmosbrucker@theadvocate.com.