Expansions of industry top news in 2018

Major expansions in wood products manufacturing, and consolidations of interests among some of the industry's heaviest hitters, made top headlines in The Piney Woods Journal during 2018. Major moves were announced by Ruston-based Hunt Lumber Company, Catchmark Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, and Arborgen in Jasper and Tyler, Texas.

And Atlanta-based Drax, a compressed wood pellet manufacturer and shipper, moved its headquarters to Monroe.

This being Louisiana, politics was never far from the news during 2018. District Four U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham emphasized Louisiana's advantages for a wide variety of business and industry.

State Senator Gerald Long of Natchitoches, said Louisiana voters want solutions to problems in fiscal affairs, Medicaid, and the TOPS program for higher education. And the Winnfield-based Political Hall of Fame, in a special New Orleans event, presented Congressman Steve Scalise a special award, acknowledging his recovery from gunshot wounds when a shooter attacked a Congressional baseball game in Washington.

Two leaders in the Louisiana Forestry Association Joe D. Burns. a founder and longtime leader in the region's forest affairs, and Martin Wade Toms, the then-current President of LFA, died.

He was succeeded by then vice president Paul Spillers of Monroe, who was elevated to the Presidency at the 71st annual LFA Convention in Shreveport in October.

Major interest was noted in the announcement by Hunt Forest Products, based in Ruston, that it would begin construction of a new $115 million sawmill in Urania in neighboring LaSalle Parish. The new mill, when complete, will reate 110 new jobs, with an average annual salary of $45,000, plus benefits.

The company said it will require up to 850,000 tons of wood per year, to produce approximately 200 million board feet of lumber annually. Hunt currently also operates one of two major hardwood lumber mills within the region the other being Hanna Manufacturing Co. in Winnfield.

Scanning The Piney Woods Journal headlines month by month, these items are of interest:
• January
A pre-holiday snowfall covered the North Louisiana hill country in white, with temperatures dropping to a ,low of 18 degrees in January. The annual recap of weather marked a record rainfall totaling 24 inches in August.
Kevin Reeves, with connections in Jackson Parish, was named Superintendent of State Police.

• February
Martin Wade Toms, 60, President of Louisiana Forestry Association, died unexpectedly at his home in Bienville Parish. He was a forester for Weyerhaeuser.
Jim Pratt, an Arkansas native and Deputy Director of the Sabine River Authority, announced retirement.
Winnfield logging contractor Henry Bubba Hubbard, died at 78.

• March
Annual Uncle Earl's Hog Dog Trials is annoucned for fourth weekend.
Hundreds of Louisiana youth win prizes in annual LSU AgCenter Livestock Show in Gonzales.
The 33rd annual ArkLaTex AgForum is held in Monroe.

• April
Louisiana Ag and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain is elected President of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Political Hall of Fame Induction is held in New Orleans, bring in new members former Governor and U.S. Senator O.K. Allen, Quentin Dastugue, Newell Normand, Henry Aldrew Heltz.

• May
Joe Heckel of Homer, is named Logger of the Year at the annual Louisiana Loggers Association banquet in Winnfield.
Sam Rivers, Jr., is recognized at the Oldest Logger at the annual Loggers Festival in Zwolle.
Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell announces reduction in electgricity rates by Entergy.

• June
Joe D. Burns, founder and owner of Burns Forest Products at Danville in Jackson Parish, dies at 94.
Open hazardous waste burning at Colfax site criticized by Ruston toxicologist Dr. Robert Flournoy.
State Senator Francis Thompson criticizes budget adopted by Legislature as being irresponsible to people.
Town of Zwolle announces plan s for 120th anniversary of founding on June 9.

• July
Atlanta, Georgia based Catchmark acquired 1.1 million acres of timberlsnds from Campbell Global, in a joint venture with a consortium of institutional investors.
Ricky Kilpatrick announces his retirement as LSU Extension Forester in Shreveport.
Ardagh Group lays off 227 employees at glass plant in Lincoln Parish.
Ken Murphy sponsor vintage tractor show at Arcadia.

• August
Vernon Parish is top producer of harvested timber for prior year, at $35.6 million.
Banker, logging contractor Dennis Aucoin of Clinton announces plans to run for seat in Louisiana House of Representatives.
Americasn Tree Farm System announces regional winners of Tree Farmer awards.

• September
Paul Spillers, Monroe attorney specializing in forestry issues, is elected president of Louisiana Forestry Association at annual convention in Shreveport.
Louisiana Political Hall of Fame moves museum exhibits to new Main Street location in Winnfield

• October
Drax Biomass, Inc., compressed wood pellet manufacturer announces move of its corporate headquarters to Monroe. Drax has manufcturing plants in Bastrop, Urania, and Gloster, Mississippi, and a shipping port in Baton Rouge.
Columbia, Louisiana, celebrates its annual Riverboat Festival.

• November
Statewide elections are announced for local offices, U.S. Congress, State judges, and other positions.
LFA President Spillers reviews factors creating extra value for timberland ownership.
Veterans Day remembers those who went to war to preserve American freedom.

• December
Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain says 2018 was rough on some farmers, including soybean growers seeking international markets.
Arborgen announces agreement with TexMark Timber to lease the Triple seedling nursery and seed orchards in Jasper and Tyler counties in East Texas.