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Green Bay Packaging’s $500M paper mill to create 1K construction jobs

Green Bay Packaging announced plans on Tuesday for a $500 million overhaul of its paper mill in Green Bay, laying the groundwork for what will amount to the largest business-development project ever in Brown County.

The $583 million project will result in the first paper mill to be built in the United States in 20 years. It’s expected to create about 1,000 construction jobs and 1.5 million man-hours of work over the course of three years. The company plans to build the new mill next to its existing one and move in after construction is completed in 2021. The general contractor Miron Construction is expected to break ground on the project in September.

Founded in 1933, Green Bay Packaging employs 1,500 people throughout Wisconsin. Of those, 600 work at the plant in Green Bay that is being phased out.

When the new plant is opened, 200 jobs will be created “throughout the state,” according to a news release.

“Papermaking has long been a staple in Wisconsin’s economic success, but it’s no secret that many paper mills across the state have closed down or moved out in recent years,” Will Kress, president and CEO of Green Bay Packaging, said in a statement. “Like our Green Bay Mill, they grow old, become inefficient, and too expensive to reinvest, but we decided to move forward with building a new paper mill right here in Green Bay because we are committed to our hardworking employees, our loyal customers, and this community.”

The proposed new paper mill will take the place of an operation that was first put up in 1947 and has been rebuilt three times since. The replacement project will cost more than $475 million and take three years to complete. Company officials expect the new mill to last 50 years.

Green Bay Packaging also plans to spend $25 million to expand its Green Bay Shipping Container Division. The company announced in May that it had acquired Wisconsin Packaging Corp., a Fort Atkinson-based maker of corrugated packaging and displays.

Company officials say the new mill will increase the company’s capacity by 50 percent. Rather than coal, natural gas will be the plant’s main source of power. That is expected to reduce the operation’s emissions of sulfur dioxide by 90 percent and its emissions of greenhouse gases by 50 percent for every ton of paper the mill produces. Company officials also said the mill won’t discharge wastewater into the nearby Fox River.

“The decision to build the new 100 percent recycled paper machine in Green Bay will preserve more than 1,100 Green Bay Packaging jobs across Brown County and position the company to grow its local workforce in the coming years,” said Bryan Hollenbach, executive vice president of Green Bay Packaging, in a statement. “The new Green Bay mill will more than double Green Bay Packaging’s paper production capabilities, resulting in a positive impact on Wisconsin’s transportation industry by increasing the amount of freight coming to and from the company each day.”

Green Bay Packaging’s new mill could also attract about $90 million worth of incentives from state and local officials. Specifically, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is talking about providing approximately $60 million worth of state income tax credits for the company’s project. These incentives, though, have yet to be approved by WEDC’s board of directors and are subject to the agency’s underwriting policies.

And in Green Bay, local officials are talking about using a tax-increment-financing district to return more than $20 million to the company, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported. Brown County, for its part, plans to spend $5.3 million to develop a nearby paper-making corridor.

“Green Bay Packaging has been an integral part of Wisconsin’s manufacturing legacy for generations, and we are excited to see their ongoing commitment to Wisconsin through this major expansion,” said Governor Scott Walker in a news release. “The company’s investment in this new facility and new equipment will not only benefit the Green Bay region, but will strengthen our state’s papermaking industry.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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