Economic support, available timber and quality mill workers prompted Resolute Forest Products to print its future on Tennessee-grown and -made paper products.
Two major expansions at the company’s pulp and paper mill in Calhoun are collectively investing $375 million and adding 150 employees to the location between 2015 and 2017. This historic change and growth meet the demands of an evolving paper market.
“We realized we needed to retreat from the manufacture of certain declining paper grades and instead focus on growth markets, such as commercial-grade printing and consumer premium tissue grades,” says Debbie Johnston, director of U.S. public affairs for Resolute Forest Products. “You see it clearly reflected in what’s happening in Calhoun.”
The facility, northeast of Chattanooga, manufactures commercial-grade paper for brochures, books, paper bags, placemats and advertising inserts. Employees there also produce baled pulp, some newsprint, and soon will bring an edge to the consumer bath tissue and paper towel markets.
As of late 2015, the Calhoun mill completed its most recent $105 million project, which added a continuous pulp digester. The equipment allows the mill to produce a greater volume of higher quality pulp to manufacture paper products on site. The facility also has the ability to dry and sell baled pulp to other mills.
By early 2017, the company will complete a $270 million expansion that will provide them with entry into the tissue market. This move will increase the Calhoun mill’s employment to about 650 people in 2017, Johnston says.
“It’s an exciting endeavor for us because it will be our first entry into the tissue market, and we feel we can be a significant player for a long period of time,” she says. “We produce our own pulp, make our own tissue and wrap it on site for our customers, which gives us a competitive advantage at this location. It will be the first consumer-ready product we have ever made.”
The Calhoun site represents one of about 40 pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities that Resolute Forest Products owns and operates in the U.S, Canada and South Korea. The company’s global market includes about 80 countries. The Calhoun mill primarily serves customers within 180 miles of its site. The company expects future tissue sales to permeate the private-label market up and down the East Coast.
The Calhoun mill alone generated an annual economic impact of $339 million in 2014 to state and local economies, Johnston says. That impact will escalate with these expansions.