The strength of our local workforce is why Weyerhaeuser Company is spending $57 million modernizing its Philadelphia mill, company officials said last week after Gov. Phil Bryant and other dignitaries were here for the announcement that is one of the most affirming on the industrial front in Neshoba County in decades.

Two continuous direct fired kilns and a new planer mill will be installed at the softwood lumber mill here beginning immediately.

The capital investment says much about strong plant management and the employees for weathering one of the worst economic periods since the Great Depression. They held together and maintained profitability, putting them in a great position to compete within the company for capital.

While no new jobs are being created, the modernization preserves 188 and lays the groundwork for future expansion and jobs.

That future expansion was hinted at by MDOT's simultaneous announcement it is stepping up efforts on the Williamsville connector, which would give Weyerhaeuser four-lane access, presumably a major factor in a future expansion, although the state isn't presently building new roads because of budget constraints and maintenance requirements on what they already have.

MDOT's aim is to get the connector road ready to be bid and then hopefully find funding.

The Neshoba County Board of Supervisors on Monday is expected to formalize an agreement with the Mississippi Development Authority that provides $2.6 million to MDOT for right-of-way acquisition, which is still incomplete with some large landowners and will require more money.

Illustrating the importance to future industrial expansion, the priority on the south connector exceeds completing the Mississippi 19 four-laning to Meridian, one county official said. This is good news because it hints of an even stronger future commitment by Weyerhaeuser and could be an indication of a new awareness by state officials of our transportation needs in Neshoba County.

The four-lane would certainly help other industries such as Yates Construction and Sisson Trucking, which are confined by the same two-lane city streets.

With this exceedingly good news from Weyerhaeuser, with a united voice, we can begin making the case now in Jackson and Washington for the road funding, an important project this community has been talking about for nearly 30 years.

Timber has been a vital part of our economy since Neshoba County's founding in 1833. Ab DeWeese opened his first sawmill in 1894 and the DeWeese Lumber Company was sold to Weyerhaeuser in 1967. The mill has been on the present site since 1911.

Weyerhaeuser has been a fine partner and last week's announcement only strengthens our ties. Their $57 million investment truly is something to jump up and down and shout about.