Win­dow firm to lo­cate in Moun­tain Pine

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SHOW­ERS

MOUN­TAIN PINE — Lo­cal son Mor­gan Wiles ex­pected to be the third gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to work at the Wey­er­haeuser sawmill that was the main­stay of his home­town.

The sawmill left more than a decade ago, tak­ing with it the city’s eco­nomic and so­cial vi­tal­ity, but Wiles, 33, and fel­low Moun­tain Pine High grad­u­ate Shaun Keefe, 31, have re­turned bear­ing the fu­ture of their com­mu­nity.

In May, they pur­chased the 389-acre site that has sat idle since Wey­er­haeuser shut­tered its Moun­tain Pine ve­neer and ply­wood plant in 2006. On Wed­nes­day, they an­nounced part of the more than $20 mil­lion win­dow man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­tail con­cern they’ve built up over the last six years will be up and run­ning on the site by April, bring­ing with it more than 100 new jobs and more than 200 in to­tal when the com­pany’s Hot Springs man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tion tran­si­tions to Moun­tain Pine from its Blue­stone Court lo­ca­tion.

Wiles, the CEO and co-owner of Morfe Prop­er­ties, the par­ent

com­pany of win­dow re­tailer WinChoice USA, win­dow provider Morfe Man­u­fac­tur­ing and bath­room re­mod­el­ing con­trac­tor Bath Planet of Arkansas, said he and Keefe are hop­ing to par­cel out the bal­ance of the site to other in­dus­tries.

“We’re com­mit­ted to giv­ing the land at the most af­ford­able prices to any­body that will come here and bring at least 20 jobs,” he said after Wed­nes­day’s cer­e­mony. “We’ll do any­thing to pro­vide jobs. The land value doesn’t mat­ter to us.”

Ac­cord­ing to the deed trans­fer­ring the prop­erty from Wey­er­haeuser to Morfe + Gera In­vest­ments, the mill site was ac­quired for $550,000. The pur­chase in­cluded Moun­tain Pine’s City Hall. In ad­di­tion to housing city of­fices, the 8,000-square-foot space is also home to some of Morfe’s 140 em­ploy­ees. Wiles said Wed­nes­day that the city can use the build­ing as long as it needs to.

Joined on the dais by Keefe, Pra­teek Gera, 24, a com­mer­cial real es­tate de­vel­oper from Jonesboro who’s a part­ner in the ven­ture and com­pany CFO Matt Miller, 31, Wiles said it was a wa­ter­shed day for the for­mer mill town.

“Let’s stop call­ing this the old mill site from this day for­ward,” Wiles told the gath­er­ing that in­cluded Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, Moun­tain Pine city of­fi­cials, com­pany em­ploy­ees and Moun­tain Pine school stu­dents. “Let’s start call­ing it Moun­tain Pine’s in­dus­trial park, and let’s start pro­vid­ing some jobs.”

A med­i­cal mar­i­juana cul­ti­va­tion fa­cil­ity or dis­pen­sary is one of the ven­tures they’ve planned for the site. Wiles said Morfe Prop­er­ties has ap­plied for li­censes to op­er­ate both. An Arkansas Depart­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman said last week that the state won’t re­lease the names of the 224 dis­pen­sary ap­pli­cants and 98 cul­ti­va­tion ap­pli­cants un­til the ap­pli­ca­tions are pro­cessed, an un­der­tak­ing that in­cludes con­firm­ing res­i­dency re­quire­ments and if the ap­pli­cants are up to date on pay­ing state taxes.

The dead­line to ap­ply for one of the five cul­ti­va­tion li­censes and 32 dis­pen­sary li­censes was Sept. 18.

The Moun­tain Pine City Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously in May to an en­dorse a let­ter of sup­port for Morfe Man­u­fac­tur­ing with the un­der­stand­ing that a med­i­cal mar­i­juana ven­ture may be lo­cated on the mill site.

Wiles said Wed­nes­day that the in­for­mal, door-to-door polling the com­pany con­ducted in the com­mu­nity en­coun­tered no op­po­si­tion to a med­i­cal mar­i­juana en­ter­prise, one he said has the po­ten­tial to trans­form the so­cioe­co­nomics of the city.

“Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana will have zero im­pact on the in­dus­trial park,” Wiles said, ex­plain­ing that the plans his com­pany has for the site won’t be affected should the state’s Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Com­mis­sion choose not to award the com­pany a li­cense. “It does have an im­pact on jobs. The av­er­age pay would be $15 to $20 an hour. That would al­low peo­ple here to have com­pletely dif­fer­ent lives.”

The more than $3 mil­lion cap­i­tal in­vest­ment the com­pany’s win­dow divi­sion is bring­ing to Moun­tain Pine qual­ify it for sales tax re­bates on build­ing ma­te­ri­als and ma­chin­ery and equip­ment pur­chased for the new fa­cil­ity, the Arkansas Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion said Wed­nes­day.

The jobs the com­pany is bring­ing qual­ify it for state tax cred­its through the Ad­van­tage Arkansas Pro­gram, the AEDC said. Wiles said the to­tal in­cen­tive pack­age is about $500,000. He said in ad­di­tion to the ded­i­cated work­force Moun­tain Pine of­fers, its high rate of low-to-mod­er­ate-in­come res­i­dents qual­i­fies in­dus­tries for sim­i­lar in­cen­tives should they choose to lo­cate in the city of fewer than 800.

Wiles said the pres­ence of gas, elec­tric, waste­water and wa­ter ser­vice al­ready on site also rec­om­mends it, as well as the Arkansas Mid­land Rail­road line that tra­verses the prop­erty.

He said the re­sent­ment left by Wey­er­haeuser’s de­par­ture should be re­placed by grat­i­tude for the tim­ber gi­ant, which he said sold the prop­erty at a frac­tion of its worth.

“I know we’ve given Wey­er­haeuser a hard time, but with­out them we wouldn’t be here,” he told the gath­er­ing. “They pro­vided jobs in this area for decades, and they’ve helped us be able to pro­vide jobs for the fu­ture. I ap­pre­ci­ate their help.”

The Sen­tinel-Record/Richard Ras­mussen

EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL SPIRIT: Shaun Keefe, left, and Mor­gan Wiles, co-own­ers of Morfe Prop­er­ties, lis­ten as Gov. Asa Hutchin­son com­mends them Wed­nes­day on bring­ing jobs back to their home­town of Moun­tain Pine.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.