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Work continues on Georgia-Pacific expansion

Although some supply chain issues have caused hiccups, completion still set for 2024

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March 10, 2023

GREEN BAY – About a third of the way through construction, that – according to Chris Brennan, Public Affairs Manager for Georgia-Pacific’s (GP) Green Bay operations – is how far along the Georgia-Pacific Broadway mill expansion is.

The $500 million expansion, which focuses on creating long-term value, broke ground in July 2022.

Brennan said although things have moved along mostly as planned – the project has run into some hiccups – including supply chain issues, especially when it comes to equipment. 

“Even though the equipment was ordered early, the ripple effect of the different pieces of the supply chain has caused periodic delays,” he said. “While future delays could affect our timeline, the team continues to do a great job of keeping the project moving when faced with these challenges.”

As far as inflation – which has seen significant increases in the last year – Brennan indicated it’s nothing GP can’t navigate around.

“We are seeing some pressure with inflation but continue to look at innovative ways to mitigate the additional costs,” he said.

Moving along
Late last year, Brennan said 1,300 cubic yards of concrete – equal to 150 cement trucks – was poured in a four-hour time span.

“With most ground improvements completed, the team is now working on the concrete and steel work that supplies a framework for the buildings to start taking shape,” he said. “At this time, we expect buildings to be completed and equipment beginning to be installed starting this fall 2023.”

By the time the project is finished, Brennan said it will have used 40,000 cubic yards of concrete.

As of February, he said the bedrock at the building site was reinforced with 1,400 steel piles to support the foundation where the paper machine will be housed.

Local manufacturers are supplying much of the equipment, materials and manpower for the building’s construction, with the exception of the paper machine, which Brennen said is being made in Sweden.

It’s slated to arrive in Green Bay early this summer.

The project itself, according to Brennan, will employ as many as 600 contractors and construction personnel from start to finish.
The new facility, which Brennan refers to as the Brawny complex, will add 120 additional technology-focused jobs and support “high levels of automation across the entire product system.”

That’s on top of the 775 corporate service and 860 manufacturing employees who work at the Broadway site already – which includes many employees from Green Bay’s Day Street facility, which is slated to close this fall.

The site ended its tissue manufacturing in May 2022 and shut down other parts of the mill last fall.

Brennan said a scaled-back staff at the Day Street mill will keep making napkins until this fall.

GP leadership said the multi-million-dollar project will “greatly enhance” the company’s retail consumer tissue and towel business.

Brennen said the through-air-dried (TAD) paper machine will produce tons of paper that will be converted into millions of cases of Brawny paper towel and other premium private-label brands.

This aerial view shows the work already happening on the Georgia-Pacific expansion project. Photo Courtesy of Georgia-Pacific

According to GP, the TAD process uses a vacuum and hot air to remove water, resulting in a thicker, softer sheet that doesn’t lose shape when wet.

“We are investing more than $600 million in our operations, including the new Brawny expansion, over the next three years, with a focus on high-tech equipment and technology, including the latest in automation, laser-guided vehicles, artificial intelligence and robust data analytics that helps our operations run safely and efficiently,” Brennan said.

At the July 2022 groundbreaking, Tim Ellsworth, vice president of Green Bay operations, said the “major investment” into the Green Bay facility will help Georgia-Pacific continue its focus on “transforming manufacturing equipment and processes that result in better employee safety, environmental performance, reliability and quality.”

Brennan said the work-from-home transformation, prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in a shifting of paper products usage – less used at work and more used at home.

“Expectations around hygiene have changed, and more people continue to work from home, creating more uses for our premium towel products,” Brennan said.

That overall trend, he said, is part of the impetus behind the expansion.

“Currently, Green Bay’s Broadway (mill) primarily produces tissue products that are used away from home,” Brennan said. “The investments we’re making in this expansion will help support Georgia-Pacific’s own retail towel brands, as well as support the growth of current and potential customers’ premium private label brands.”

He expects the expansion to be up and running sometime between March and July 2024.

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