International Paper (IP), Memphis, Tennessee, has decided to convert a paper production line at its Selma, Alabama, mill from uncoated freesheet copying paper to packaging board production.
The paper machine changeover is part of a $552.7 million investment into the Riverdale Mill in Dallas County, Alabama, near Selma.
In September 2017, IP announced plans to invest around $300 million at the Selma plant as part of a plan to grow its industrial packaging business. The additional investment expands on those plans to convert a line making uncoated freesheet, or copy paper, to the production of whitetop and kraft linerboard, as well as containerboard.
A press release from the Alabama Department of Commerce states, “These products are important to the packaging industry, which is experiencing a boom due to surging levels of e-commerce.”
“Our system runs most effectively when there is flexibility, and this conversion will also help us define a more streamlined and balanced system overall,” Tim Nicholls, IP’s senior vice president of industrial packaging for the Americas, said when the original investment was announced in September 2017.
“This is a tremendous investment in our community, and solidifies the presence of IP in Selma and Dallas County,” comments Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Wayne Vardaman “IP is Dallas County’s largest employer with over 750 employees and numerous indirect jobs. These employees now know that the Riverdale Mill is here to stay.”
Dallas County officials say IP is making the largest industrial investment in the county in many years. “This latest number floored us all,” Dallas County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Kim Ballard remarks. “It’s the biggest investment in Dallas County that I remember.”
Vince Perez, a project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the IP project is tapping into the Alabama Reinvestment Act, a modified abatement act designed to assist companies reinvesting in a facility to prevent it from becoming a “legacy plant,” which ceases to get new investment and sheds jobs.
“This project is another indication of International Paper’s strong commitment to its Riverdale Mill and its workforce there,” says Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. It’s a great example of a company preserving its investment in a facility, and the jobs there, by pivoting output from one product to another that is in greater demand.”