FRANKLIN, Virginia (From news reports) -- This past week, International Paper recognized the five-year anniversary of the repurposing of its Franklin mill. According to Jenny Dixon, the Franklin mill's communications manager, this has been the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for the Franklin Mill.
"As we celebrate this milestone, we reflect on our appreciation of everyone involved in the repurposing effort -- the Project team, resources from across the company, our contractors and suppliers -- and most importantly, the Franklin Team and our community," Dixon said.
She added that repurposing the site's existing F4 paper machine asset, which previously produced uncoated free sheet, allowed International Paper to invest in a facility with good assets and great people. The strong business case for this uniquely American product made from Southern Yellow Pine has helped meet a global market demand and further strengthened the company's presence in the worldwide fluff pulp market, she said, adding that the Franklin Mill is ideally located with access to fiber and proximity to shipping ports, critical for supplying a global customer base. Fluff pulp is projected to grow globally at an annual rate of 3 to 4 percent.
"For the people who were working tirelessly to restart the mill, it was personal," Dixon said. "Everyone involved was passionate about bringing Franklin back online and proving what this team could do."
Since that time, the Franklin Mill has welcomed two additional tenants, ST Tissue and Franklin Lumber, both independent companies conducting operations at the Franklin Mill complex. Last fall, ST Tissue announced expansion plans to refurbish and restart a second machine in the near future.
Franklin's success story has helped pave the way for further expansion of the fluff pulp business. Last year, the Riegelwood, North Carolina Mill converted its facility to 100 percent fluff and softwood pulp. International Paper also purchased Weyerhaeuser's pulp business in late 2016, doubling the size of its Global Cellulose Fibers business and making it the second largest business within the IP system.
"The same guiding principles that have gotten us this far -- safety above all else, environmental stewardship, teamwork and communication -- will help us continue to be successful for many years to come," said Dixon. "We are proud to be an economic driver in our region and a part of this community that has supported us since our restart," she added. "Congratulations to the entire team on this special milestone and here's to many more."
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