Driving to the office earlier, I took the shortcut, passing Rayonier’s plant on the way. The operation is almost invisible on the main roadways, other than the visible logging trucks turning down Gum Street, but this place is always on my mind. In 1939, Ed Boner, Sr., came to Fernandina from the Grays Harbor location. I grew up hearing stories about lines for jobs and chlorine leaks. Mom would take me to drop off meals a the guard house, when Dad left his lunch on the counter. All the diversity we have on the island and stability, in my opinion, are possible because the local mills provided jobs, when there were few jobs. Shrimping, once a significant part of the local economy, is still important, but now more a part of the local history, not a major economic driver.
Rayonier has been the biggest influence on Fernandina and on our county for decades. In many ways, we are taking a last bite of development and seeing a best possible plan, because Rayonier owned the majority of land in Nassau County. The luxury of being last and luxury of planned development will benefit Nassau County far more than most realize.
1939 Rayonier completes construction on its first cellulose specialties plant in the Southeast in Fernandina Beach, Florida