Resolute Forest Products has announced a $105 million investment in its Calhoun paper mill for capital improvements.
Debbie Johnston, Resolute Forest Products director of U.S. public affairs, said the investment would allow a paper production line that had been idled to be upgraded to produce a higher grade of paper.
The machine was idled as part of Calhoun’s discontinuation of newsprint and is being temporarily used while a line at a Georgia plant is being serviced.
It will also include a new pulp digester to allow a better quality and greater quantity, Johnston.
This investment will bring 50 new jobs to the plant, according to Johnston.
“We are ecstatic on a couple of different levels,” McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said. “Resolute has been a McMinn Keystone industry for six decades.”
Gentry said the investment brings stability to the county since the Calhoun plant is its largest property taxpayer.
“This investment is going to diversify their product line,” Gentry said.
He said it is this ability to diversify that has kept the plant in operation as one of McMinn County’s largest employers.
The mayor said Resolute’s decision to make the investment in Calhoun and not one of its other plants shows they believe there is “a future in McMinn County” for the company.
“Whenever we make a capital investment we look at a lot of our assets, our facilities to make sure we are making the investment in a strategic way and the best facility suited for what we would like to do. Calhoun certainly rose to the top in that category,” Johnston said.
“Resolute Forest Products has had a thriving presence in East Tennessee which can be felt far beyond the borders of our state,” Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said in a press release.
“Tennessee’s global momentum is fueled by companies that extend their brand on a worldwide scale, and with customers in nearly 100 countries, Resolute is one of those companies. I appreciate the company’s decision to further expand and invest in Calhoun, and for [what] will be created for our citizens,” Hagerty said.
The announcement of the investment is good news not just for McMinn County but for Bradley and Cleveland as well, Gentry said. Many of the Calhoun paper mill employees come from Bradley County.
“Southeast Tennessee has a bright future,” Gentry said.
Johnston referred to the area as “a solid business environment.”
She also emphasized the local and state support the project has received.
In addition to his excitement over the capital investment, Gentry said he was also pleased with what the news would mean for the new employees and their families.
“It’s no secret that Resolute wages are well above the state and national average,” Gentry said.
This investment, along with others made in Southeast Tennessee recently, makes this area “the envy of others,” Gentry said.
“Over the last couple of years we have been conducting a strategic analysis of all of our operations, and those that are certainly well suited and profitable, we continue to run and invest in them,” Johnston said.
This analysis has also involved assessing what can be done to improve operations and shutting down those lines that are no longer profitable.
“And what we are left with is our strongest asset that we want to invest in and we want to grow, and Calhoun is certainly one of those,” Johnston said
The exact grade of paper that will be produced on the line is still being determined, and an exact timeline of when production and the new jobs will begin is unknown.