A forest products company with subsidiaries connected to Mayor Sandy Stimpson is receiving $600,000 in incentives to relocate its United States headquarters from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Mobile in the coming months.
Canfor Southern Pine Inc., a subsidiary of Canada-based Canfor Corp., began acquiring privately owned lumber companies throughout the South in 2006 and by 2013 had made its way to Gulf Lumber Co. Inc. in Mobile, which is run by Stimpson’s family.
Since the acquisition, Gulf Lumber has become part of Canfor Southern Pine’s U.S. operations, which include 11 sawmills, four manufacturing plants, chip mills and a trucking firm operating in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Stimpson’s brother, Fred Stimpson, is the president of Canfor Southern Pine, and this week he told Mobile County Commissioners he’s been working to relocate the company’s headquarters to Mobile for “a long, long time.”
“We’re going to be headquartered in the Van Antwerp Building, which RSA is just finishing up for us now,” Fred Stimpson said. “We’re really really thrilled Canfor has decided to put their headquarters for the U.S. in Mobile, Alabama, and we’re going to be opening pretty soon.”
According to Fred Stimpson, Canfor Southern Pine has roughly 1,900 employees throughout the South and about 360 in Alabama.
The relocation is expected to bring 20 new employees to Mobile, though they will be upper-level corporate positions earning an average of $90,000 per year. In addition, the company projects that relocating to Mobile will keep at least 25 additional jobs from leaving the state.
The company expects to invest at least $5 million at the new headquarters, with an additional $1 million of capital improvements planned in the Van Antwerp Building itself.
“I know I was involved with the early stages of planning, though it was a very small piece” Commission President Jerry Carl said. “I’m excited for it. We’re all excited.”
Dubbed “Project Crimson,” the deal that landed the Canadian multinational company’s U.S. headquarters in Mobile is a three-way agreement between the company, the county and the state of Alabama that will provide $600,000 of reimbursements for Canfor’s upfront development costs.
Of that, $200,000 will come from the county and the remaining $400,000 will be covered by the state — both of which will be paid in installments as Canfor meets its requirement to provide 20 full-time employees by June 30, 2017. The company will also be required to maintain that level of employment for a period of at least five years.
According to state records, Canfor Gulf Pine Inc. was cleared to operate as an Alabama business just last week.
However, as part of the incentives package, both the county and the state have agreed to assist Canfor in the application process for any and all necessary permits going forward — agreeing to assist in efforts to see those permits granted in the “shortest period of time as reasonably possible” within the confines of state law.
The agreement also has provisions that would require Canfor to pay a fee to the state and county if the company fails to meet the requirements of the agreement — fees that increase based on the number of employees below the minimum level laid out in the agreement.
Stimpson worked for Gulf Lumber Co. for more than 37 years but left his position as its chief financial officer in 2012 to launch his mayoral campaign. Spokesperson George Talbot told Lagniappe Stimpson is no longer part of the company, but said “the city is excited” about Canfor’s decision to relocate to Mobile as well.
When asked about the incentives package, Talbot said the city intentionally opted not to join the county and state in offering financial incentives to Canfor “to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.”
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