Continuing disputes between the United States and Canada over lumber imports will not get in the way of a new factory announced Wednesday in Bibb County.
Canada based Irving Consumer Products announced their intent to build a $400 million, 700,000 square foot plant which will turn softwood lumber into toilet tissue in Macon. That will create 200 permanent jobs.
Among the politicians and business people at Macon's historic Terminal Station for the announcement was US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The Commerce Department recently imposed tariffs on Canadian lumber imports in an effort to give American lumber a leg up. Ross said he hoped that wouldn’t be a problem.
"At times the Commerce Department’s unique role in this causes us to pursue trade cases," Ross told the assembled crowd, including Irving CEOs. "But we hope that the current forestry disputes will be brought to a happy conclusion quickly."
Irving Consumer Products enjoys the lowest rate of the new tariffs, something around 10 percent. Some other Canadian lumber producers have been saddled with tariffs approaching 30 percent.
Most of the wood to be used in the Macon factory will come from Canada while none will come from Georgia.
Ross also said the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, another possible stumbling block to cross border deals like the Macon plant, should begin before the end of August.
Governor Nathan Deal used the event to publicly nudge Ross and President Trump to spend money on Savannah’s harbor expansion.
"I know that’s not necessarily your department," Deal said to both Ross from the podium. "But when you are in cabinet meetings and the topic comes up about infrastructure, please tell them we are not only shovel ready, we are dredge ready."
The Macon plant is expected to be up and running in 2019.