(07/24/2002)
By Bob Weaver

Mead-Westvaco, one of the largest landholders in Wirt and several other West Virginia counties, has announced they will cut 2,500 jobs by the end of the year. They are reporting a second-quarter loss of eight million dollars, or four cents a share.

Gov. Cecil Underwood gave timber companies, including Westvaco, over a 60% tax break with the Managed Timberlands Bill, reducing taxation in many rural counties by several hundred thousand dollars. Mead-Westvaco pays Wirt County less than $1 an acre tax.

The Managed Timberlands Bill, which was given approval by nearly every regional member of the House of Delegates, was touted to help the small wood lot owner. A study indicated 90% of the applicants were large timber companies, those that already managed their wood lots.

The loss of tax to poor rural counties was enormous.

Westvaco's $3 billion dollar merger with Mead has already resulted in the elimination of 2,100 jobs, what was described as a move to strengthen the company.

Mead-Westvaco owns 350,000 acres in West Virginia, on which they pay minimal taxes compared to regular land owners.


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