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Georgia-Pacific expansion expected to have long-term impact on regional economy

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August 29, 2022

GREEN BAY — Announcements of groundbreakings and expansions bring with it the anticipation of jobs and economic impact on the people and the community where the said projects take place.

This can be said about Georgia-Pacific’s (GP), the Atlanta-based pulp and paper company, recent groundbreaking marking the start of its $500 million expansion — which is expected to bring 500 construction jobs over the multi-year project and 100 factory jobs upon completion, in addition to the mill’s 800-plus current employees across its four Green Bay area plants.

“Certainly, it will have a job impact,” GP Public Affairs Manager Mike Kawleski said. “Some of those folks are coming over from our Day Street facility, which, of course, is going to eventually close next year. So we’re glad to keep as many experienced folks as possible.”

Kawleski said though construction has just begun and completion isn’t expected until 2024, recruitment and training is already beginning.

“We are recruiting people for the new addition to the Broadway mill right now,” he said. “We’re no different than any other manufacturer or maybe any other business that’s trying to employ people right now and recruit. Everyone is having difficulty.”
Kawleski said as far as recruiting at GP – it’s full-court press.

“Because we not only have these jobs, we have plenty of job openings in our other facilities in town, too,” he said. “So it’s really a full-time effort.”

Kawleski said some of that recruitment process focuses on highlighting what modern manufacturing looks like.
“Folks sometimes have a perception about manufacturing having all the D words – dark, dusty, dangerous and dead end,” he said. “But of course, we know that modern manufacturing is nothing like that. It’s a very high-tech, high-pay and high-skill type of position. So, we’re working closely with organizations like the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance to promote all those careers and let people know what they actually are like.”

A big deal

Kawleski said building a brand new paper machine is a big deal no matter where it’s built.

Kimberly Burns, vice president and general manager of GP’s towel and napkin categories, cited a few things that set Green Bay apart – including its track record.

“The type of folks that we have within Green Bay, the work ethic of employees in Northeast Wisconsin,” Kawleski said.
He said when Georgia-Pacific looks to invest in one of its facilities, they think about what they will get in terms of return, while ensuring project success.

“If you take a look at all of Green Bay operations for Georgia Pacific, the company has invested $1.2 billion in Green Bay since 2006,” Kawleski said. “So they certainly have shown confidence in us in Green Bay, and we’re very, very grateful for that.”

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach said GP’s decision to build the facility in Green Bay speaks volumes.

“They could have made this investment in any other state,” Streckenbach said. “The fact they chose the Green Bay facility is a testament to the hundreds of employees who proved to corporate this was the right location. This will have a significant long-term impact on our regional economy and is great news for Brown County and Northeast Wisconsin.”

Kawleski said most of the work on the infrastructure – the new paper machine which uses through-air-dried technology, as well as the associated converting equipment and structures – will be local.

“We’ve got a lot of local companies that are partners in this project,” he said.

Kawleski said the multi-million-dollar project will greatly enhance the company’s retail consumer tissue and towel business.
“It keeps the operation sustainable, and it’s another investment in a product that is very popular in the marketplace,” he said, “and GP is very well positioned to serve that growth.”

Kawleski said over the Broadway plant’s 103-year history, it has primarily made away-from-home products.

“Types of things like motion paper towels and individually-wrapped toilet paper that you might see in a hotel or at a sporting arena or school or restaurant, those types of things,” he said.

Kawleski said the new machine will produce a retail product – Brawny paper towel.

“It’ll be Brawny towels, and other premium towel products that will come out of this, so it’s a little bit different that what the mill has been set up over the years to do,” he said.

The multi-year process

?Kawleski said like with any large construction project, neighbors will begin noticing construction vehicles on-site at the Broadway mill.

“Eventually, you will see lots of lots of trucks either hauling materials in or taking different supplies out,” he said. “We will also be doing some pile driving to set a foundation for the paper machine. Of course, you need a good solid foundation for that. So, that’s probably one thing that people will be hearing sooner than anything else, and that’s going to extend a number of months just to do that.”

Down the road, Kawleski said one aspect of the project potentially interesting to some, is the arrival of the Yankee dryer.

“Coming up when we get the parts of the new paper machine, there’s a part of it called the Yankee dryer, and is basically a 200-ton steam vessel that is used on the paper machine to dry the sheet as it goes through. So that is a huge, huge part, and usually comes in on a ship. So, we’ll inform everyone when that actually arrives.”

Kawleski said GP tries to keep its neighbors informed of what they’re doing so they at least know why they’re hearing, seeing things at the facility. 

“When the (Broadway mill) was built 103 years ago, there was nothing but farmland right around it,” he said. “Now we’re right in the middle of neighborhoods, so we want to make sure that we keep folks informed.”

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