Atlanta, Georgia based WestRock has broken ground on a $97 million expansion at its paper mill in Hodge, Louisiana. The paper mill has been a major employer in Jackson Parish for 90 years.

“WestRock’s latest investment in this facility is an investment in the workers of north Louisiana and the rural revitalization of our state,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by company executives and state, regional and local government and business leaders. “These critical upgrades ensure the long-term viability of a facility responsible for more than 450 direct jobs and hundreds more indirect jobs in Jackson Parish.”

State Representative Jack McFarland says the $97 million investment will expand and modernize the facility which produces high-quality containerboard used in manufacturing containers and that the project is a driver of economic activity for surrounding parishes. “Since it’s part of our largest agricultural crop of timber, what it does it secure that industry and that mill for at least another decade or two,” he said.

The governor’s office says the company is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, and the initial start-up of the new wood processing equipment is scheduled for a year from now. “It means a lot, the community is committed to seeing WestRock succeed and I’m thankful that WestRock is committed to seeing our community have an opportunity to prosper and grow as well,” said McFarland.

“WestRock is committed to delivering on the promise of a sustainable future,” said Patrick Kivits, President of Corrugated Packaging, WestRock The planned woodyard improvements are expected to reduce the use of source material by four percent 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.”

The Hodge mill, situated on a 1,700-acre site, was operated by RockTenn Company until the company merged with MeadWestvaco in 2015 to form WestRock. The investment in construction of a new woodyard and new equipment will increase capacity and efficiencies and reduce operating costs at the facility and comes on the heels of the recently completed five-year modernization plan that the company announced in 2017. WestRock has 320 locations employing 50,000 employees in 30 countries. The company employs more than 450 people with an annual payroll of more than $44 million in north Louisiana.

Construction is expected to continue into 2024, with a final completion date yet to be determined.

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