By Ken Ward Jr.
Huge wood products mills that are driving the increase in timber cutting in West Virginia have received substantial state money to locate here, records show.
Much has been made of the incentives that Parsons & Whittemore Inc. might get if the company builds its $1.1 billion pulp and paper mill along the Ohio River in Mason County.
Records revealed through a Gazette Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show the mill would be eligible for $738 million in state Super Tax Credits.
State officials say the company would actually receive perhaps only $155 million of those tax credits over a decade.
But records released by court order also show the state has considered various types of loans, tax-free bonds and other large incentives that could equal the cost of the mill construction.
The exact amount may not be known until after the mill is built, if it ever is.
State records released after the Gazette sued over the mill incentive package, however, detail the deals provided to Georgia-Pacific, Weyerhaeuser and Trus-Joist MacMillan for new wood plants they have built in West Virginia.
Those records, obtained from the West Virginia Development Office, show:
* Georgia-Pacific received $125,000 in job training money, or the states standard allotment of $1,000 per worker, for its $85 million oriented strand board plant in Mount Hope.
The state spent nearly $400,000 to upgrade county Route 27 near the plant.
* Weyerhaeuser received nearly $57,000 in job training money for its $170 million OSB plant at Heaters in Braxton County.
The state spent more than $200,000 to widen W.Va. 4 and build an access road into the plant north of Flatwoods.
Weyerhaeuser also received $1.16 million of Appalachian Regional Commission funds to extend water and sewer service to the plant site.
* Trus-Joist MacMillan received more than $200,000 in job training money for its fabricated construction beam plant in Buckhannon.
The state spent nearly $1 million to improve and widen county Route 13 near the plant.
Trus-Joist also received $193,000 in state funds to extend water and sewer service to the Upshur County Industrial Park, site of the companys plant.
All three wood plants qualify for the states lucrative Super Tax Credit program. Estimates of the amounts will eventually be published, once the credits are taken, by the state Tax Department.
Dana Davis, director of Development Services for the Development Office, said all three projects applied for and received industrial bonds from the state.
These bonds allow the companies to receive tax-free loans for construction of their facilities. Every state is provided an annual amount of such bonds form the federal government. West Virginia receives the minimum $150 million each Jan. 1.
Trus-Joist was provided with $22.5 million in 1994. Georgia-Pacific was provided $11.6 million in 1995. Weyerhaeuser received $30 million in 1995 and $27.5 million in 1996.
Davis said none of these companies received special deals from the state. "They all took advantage of programs created by lawmakers and available to all potential development projects," Davis said.
"We have certain programs that are statutory that are available to any company that meets the criteria," Davis said. "These companies met the criteria and received these incentives."
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