LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) — Tiny wood pellets are bringing lots of jobs and big money to Lucedale and putting George County on the world map.

A new plant in Lucedale that makes pellets is combining “industry” with “agriculture.” Enviva opened 14 months ago.

In George County, you could make the argument that timber is still the most important agricultural crop,” said George County Economic Development Director Ken Flanagan.

Enviva makes 7-millimeter wood pellets and provides a steady market for local foresters who have suffered a lot over the last two decades due to the declining paper-making industry.

“The Enviva plant has brought a new market back for the Southern Pine,” said Flanagan. “We’re in the George County wood basket and for 75 miles around us we have copious amounts of Southern Pine.”

Those trees go through a process at Enviva that turns them into pellets that can be burned in traditional coal-burning power plants, providing a far less significant carbon footprint. All the pellets made in Lucedale will be burned at power plants in Japan.

“The wood pellets are just so much more carbon friendly, environmentally friendly than certain types of coal and it’s a process that has massive potential,” said Flanagan.  

Rail is a key component of the entire process at Enviva.

A direct rail spur takes 22 train carloads of pellets a day forty miles straight to the Port of Pascagoula.

“To think that a George County product is now literally an international product that in 30 days will be in Japan is a point of pride,” said Flanagan. “We feel like we are on the cutting edge of a new energy market, a bioenergy, recyclable energy market.”

Flanagan said more than 100 people work at the new plant and that Enviva has been a boost for the local tax base.

He said Enviva will be a big part of Lucedale’s future.

“When you look at it, it feels industrial but what you really have is an agricultural timber processing center,” he said. “It is a modern sawmill in a lot of ways. You just don’t see the sawdust anymore.”