Governor Edwards attends groundbreaking cermony at WestRock Paper Mill

Hodge, La.  – With virutally every local dignatary and state politcal office holder representing Jackson Parish on hand, Governor John Bel Edwards announced the start of construction on a $97 million project to expand and modernize the WestRock Company paper mill.

The investment in construction of a new woodyard and new equipment will increase capacity and efficiencies and reduce operating costs at the facility, whcih has been a major employer and driver of economic activity in Jackson Parish since it began operations in 1928. It comes on the heels of the five-year modernization plan that WestRock, which employs more than 450 people with an annual payroll of more than $44 million, recently completed.

“As you know, Westrock has demonstrated on multiple occasions that they are absolutely committed to Jackson Parish and to the state of Louisiana,” said governor Edwards. “With the investments that they make and the jobs that they create, I would tell you that these long term commitments to Louisiana are very much appreciated here.”

The Hodge mill, situated on a 1,700-acre site, was operated by Rock-Tenn Company until the company merged with MeadWestvaco in 2015 to form WestRock. The multinational paper and packaging solutions manufacturer has 320 locations employing 50,000 employees in 30 countries. Its Hodge facility produces high-quality container board that is used in manufacturing corrugated containers.

The $97 million investment project for a new and modernized woodyard will bring construction job opportunities for the next few decades. It will also allow the mill to better benefit landowners throught the ability of buying more trees and increase the long term viability of the facility according to WestRock General Manager Eric Taylor. 

“The most important effect, probably, is the economic impact that will benefit landowners around here and local parishes and also improve the long term viability of this facility,” 

The new modernized woodyard should also allow for fewer trees to be needed to make a ton of paper.

“It’s more of a modernization, so we are taking out an old inefficient operation that was aged to the point of unreliability and installing a new modern chipping facility that can meet the production target that we need,” explained Taylor.

The ceremony started with Taylor welcoming everyone to the facility and introducing Governor Edwards and other dignataries. District 13 State Representative Jack McFarland, District 35 State Senator Jay Morris, District 11 State Representative Patrick Jefferson and WestRock Senior Vice President of Regional Mill Operations, Mike Ballew followed with short speeches. Taylor then invited Governor Edwards to the podium where he delighted those in attendance by congratulating the leadership of WestRock and complimenting the impact the facility makes for the local economy and the state in general.

WHAT’S NEXT:

Initial start-up of new wood processing equipment is scheduled for the second half of 2023.
Construction is expected to continue into 2024, with a final completion date to be determined.
The company is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Patrick Kivits, president of corrugated packaging, WestRock: “WestRock is committed to delivering on the promise of a sustainable future. The planned woodyard improvements are expected to reduce the use of source material by 4% while yielding higher product volume. This makes our planet better and contributes to the long-term operational success of both our facility and the Hodge community.”
Louisiana State Rep. Jack McFarland: “The timber sector has been a powerful economic engine in our rural communities for generations, and investments like this one keep that engine running smoothly. On behalf of District 13, I thank WestRock for securing jobs and supporting contractors who rely on the paper mill for their livelihood, and applaud the north Louisiana workers whose skill and dedication gave the company confidence to invest in Jackson Parish.”

Photos from WestRock Woodyard Groundbreaking Ceremony


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One thought on “Governor Edwards attends groundbreaking cermony at WestRock Paper Mill

  1. What wonderful news for Jackson parish! Once time years ago I came home (from Arkansas) and as I approached Hodge, there was no smoke from the Mill, there were NO cars (it was during the short time when it was total down, and there were layoffs). I literally cried while driving. So many families, so many businesses depend on this industry for their livelihood. I am so happy to read this good news for my home Parish.

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