Doug Warstler, president of Canfor Southern Pine in Myrtle Beach, said home construction has picked up enough that the company will announce an expansion Wednesday morning that will add 56 jobs to its Conway operation.
The expansion was known as Project Volunteer as it was being negotiated by the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., the Horry County Council and others because companies don’t like to be identified until the deal is done.
“We’re seeing a much better future for housing starts than we have in four to five years,” he said.
Warstler said there were two million housing starts nationwide in 2005, a figure that dropped precipitously in the Great Recession. The number reached just 400,000 starts in 2011 and rebounded somewhat to 750,000 in 2012.
Warstler said Canfor’s projections see 900,000 to 1 million housing starts this year.
County councils in Horry and Georgetown were expected to give final approval to designating the company’s site as a multi-county business park, which will put it in line for a $1,000 state tax credit for each new job it creates. The EDC further will give the company $135,000 when it has hired the 56 employees, said Brad Lofton, EDC president.
The Grand Strand was first introduced to multi-county business parks when Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. went through an exhaustive public process before it established one that has been responsible for infrastructure at Coastal Grand Mall and Grande Dunes, among other things.
Horry County Councilman Marion Foxworth said the state created the multi-county business park structure for big projects such as the BMW plant in the Upstate, but that since then, they have proliferated for smaller projects as well.
He said that the Canfor expansion may seem small in the context of the business parks’ original intent, but added, “It will be nice to get 50 new jobs. Those are good jobs, they are manufacturing jobs. They’re not likely to get up and leave in the middle of the night.”
Warstler didn’t want to talk about the company’s timetable for hiring the new employees and other details, saying he wanted to save that kind of information for Wednesday’s press conference.
Georgetown County will have to give the park concept the same thumbs-up as does Horry for it to become a reality. But Georgetown will get 1 percent of the fee in lieu of taxes Canfor will pay, said County Council Chairman Johnny Morant, money he said will go into the county’s economic development effort.
Foxworth said it will be Horry schools that will lose the most revenue, as it also will get 1 percent of the fee in lieu rather than its normal millage from the property.
“Granted, it’s not a lot of money,” Foxworth said of the 1 percent.
But the idea behind the structure is that if the deal creates enough jobs, then everybody comes out ahead.
Canfor Southern Pine started its life in 1957 as New South Companies after five area families built a sawmill near Conway, according to the Canfor Southern Pine website. In 1983, New South and a Swedish partner built a sawmill in Camden that was later wholly acquired by New South. In 1993, it built a molding and finger-jointed stud facility in Marion and in 1999, bought a third sawmill in Graham, N.C.
Canfor, which sells its sustainable wood products worldwide, bought New South in 2006. Canfor has corporate offices in British Columbia, Canada and Myrtle Beach. Its manufacturing facilities are in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada, and in North Carolina and South Carolina.