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Phoenix Paper plans $200 million recycling facility at Ballard Co. Mill just one year after purchasing facility

Phoenix Paper LLC announced last week plans to invest $200 million to build a paper recycling facility on the grounds of the Wickliffe mill it purchased only a year ago.

Company leaders plan to use the existing site to build a paper-and-pulp recycling facility. With an estimated 700,000-ton annual capacity, the new facility will receive post-consumer cardboard and mixed paper from various regional locations. Following cleaning and screening of the raw material, the stock will be formed and dried into industrial pulp and finished paper. Current design and equipment specifications are being finalized with construction to begin before the end of the year. The project is expected to be completed within 14 to 18 months.

Employees at Phoenix Paper’s Wickliffe mill pose in fron tof the first roll of paper produced at the facility in May (Photo from Phoenix Paper)

Phoenix Paper’s expansion comes as the Bevin administration seeks to attract investment from China. Amid national-level tensions, Kentucky has led the way in laying the groundwork for future business and job-creation opportunities between the two countries, which respectively represent the world’s largest and second-largest economies.

This past May in Lexington, Kentucky hosted the U.S.-China Governors Collaboration Summit, a gathering of US and Chinese leaders, financiers and private companies to promote further collaboration and economic development between China’s provinces and US states. Executives from the Bank of China attended, providing opportunities to strengthen relationships with Kentucky leaders. Phoenix Paper is a longtime client of the Bank of China.

“Bank of China has held preliminary meetings aimed at providing additional funding for Phoenix Paper’s recycling project, which would support hundreds of jobs in Kentucky, as part of the Governor’s direct efforts to attract Chinese investment during the recent summit,” said Raymond Qiao, chief lending officer for the Bank of China USA.

The project also represents a creative, pro-business and environmentally sustainable example of an approach to the increasing problem of mixed paper and cardboard recycling piling up across the US. Early in 2018, China stopped importing multiple types of materials from the US for recycling.

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection is working with Phoenix Paper to ensure all necessary environmental permits are in place prior to opening.

A year ago, executives with Phoenix Paper, along with Gov. Bevin and local leaders announced the company would purchase the mill for about $16 million, refurbish it with a $150 million investment and reopen it, eventually creating 500 full-time positions. The mill opened early this year and produced its first roll of bleached, hardwood pulp on May 29. The facility currently employs more than 200 people and has an annual capacity of 300,000 tons.

The mill’s former owner, Verso Corp., faced a market shift away from coated paper for magazines and other print media. It idled the facility in late 2015, furloughing more than 300 employees, and closed the operation in July 2016.

Kentucky is home to eight Chinese-owned facilities, currently employing about 8,700 people. Earlier this year, officials and business leaders announced the establishment of the International Fisheries Industrial Park in Ballard County, where six additional Chinese-owned companies plan to open Asian Carp processing facilities in addition to three existing operations. Those new manufacturers promise to create an additional 150 jobs. International investment constitutes a significant part of Kentucky’s economy. More than 510 internationally owned facilities representing 34 countries employ 112,000-plus Kentuckians full-time.

For more information on Phoenix Paper, visit www.phoenixpaper.com.

From Governor’s Office

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