Green Bay Packaging has broken ground on its new paper mill in Green Bay, a $500 million project expected to create at least 200 jobs statewide. The new mill will replace the company's existing recycled paper mill, which was built in 1947 and has been rebuilt three times since then. It will cost $475 million and it will take three years to build. The company also is investing $25 million to expand its shipping container division as part of the project.
This will be one of the largest economic development projects in state history (though not in the Foxconn mega-project's league) and the largest ever in Brown County. In Brown County alone, this new investment will preserve 1,100 jobs. Green Bay Packaging is partnering with local companies for the design, construction, and installation of equipment into their new facility. The mill is expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2021.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has awarded the company with up to $60 million in state income tax credits over 12 years to ensure that the new mill is built in Wisconsin. The actual amount of tax credits the company receives is contingent upon the number of jobs created and retained, and the amount of capital investment the company makes through 2029. As is the case for all WEDC tax credit awards, Green Bay Packaging must first create the jobs and make the capital investments before receiving any credits.
Midwest Paper Group plans to create up to 321 total jobs and invest $30 million in the former Appleton Coated mill. Midwest Paper Group's parent companies — Industrial Assets and Maynards Industries — purchased the former Appleton Coated facility at a court-approved receivership auction shortly after the mill closed in September 2017. At the time, the two companies were looking for a buyer for the plant, but after going months without finding one, they made the decision to run the mill as an ongoing operation.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is providing Midwest Paper Group with up to $1.8 million in state tax credits to support the company's efforts to modernize the former Appleton Coated paper mill in Combined Locks.
The company restarted one of its three paper machines for production in December 2017 and begin rehiring former Appleton Coated workers. Today, all three paper machines are in operation around-the-clock, and about 310 workers – the vast majority of whom had worked at Appleton Coated — are back on the job.
"We have received overwhelming support and encouragement to restart this mill — support and encouragement from the owners, community, customers, suppliers, government officials, contractors, and most importantly, our employees," said Kyle Putzstuck, president of Midwest Paper Group. "The additional support from the state of Wisconsin being announced today is further affirmation that we are on the right path and represents a significant investment in continuing the 129-year old papermaking tradition in Combined Locks."
In addition to reopening the mill, Midwest Paper Group is spending millions to convert the facility from one that produces printing and writing grades of paper (white paper) to one that produces packaging grades (generally brown paper). The project entails installation of equipment needed to convert waste paper to medium and linerboard used in corrugated and other packaging. Midwest Paper Group will produce both grade lines initially, but it plans to increase production of its packaging grades of paper. The company says there is growing demand for packaging papers because of online shopping and shipping, and the mill's conversion will help meet that demand and keep the paper manufacturing in Combined Locks.
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.