Pratt Industries and International Paper both announced openings of new corrugated packaging facilities last week, expanding their U.S. production capacity.
Pratt Industries opened a $700 million recycled paper mill and corrugated box factory in Henderson, Kentucky, on Thursday, which it said will employ 325 people.
It marks the sixth such site for Pratt, a privately held corrugated packaging and displays manufacturer based in Georgia, which says it operates in more than half of U.S. states as well as in Mexico. It also has recycling operations to supply its 100% recycled paper mills.
Pratt said the new paper machine at Henderson will produce 1,500 tons of paper every day that will made into corrugated boxes at Pratt’s converting plants across the U.S., including at the Henderson site.
The company opened a $253 million plant in Cedar Hill, Texas, in June. And its growth is poised to continue: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced earlier this month that Pratt is building a new production facility in Peach County, Georgia, through a $120 million investment. The site is expected to be operational in late 2024 and will produce corrugated boxes and containerboard with recycled material sourced from Pratt’s mill in Conyers, Georgia.
International Paper announced Friday the opening of a $100 million facility in Atglen, Pennsylvania, that will provide 100 manufacturing jobs and produce corrugated packaging for produce, processed food, beverage, shipping, distribution and e-commerce customers.
Other U.S. paper investments and expansions this year include a $160 million capital investment project into Georgia-Pacific’s containerboard mill in Brewton, Alabama, to replace outdated equipment, and Cascades’ startup of a state-of-the-art mill in Bear Island, Virginia, a project whose total cost is estimated to be in excess of $500 million.
Those growth headlines also come as numerous paper mills have been idled or shut down entirely, with companies often citing weak demand. For example, Domtar, part of the Paper Excellence Group, announced this month it’s indefinitely idling a mill in Ontario, Canada, which will affect approximately 450 jobs. WestRock has also announced at least six facility closures this year as it seeks to eliminate less efficient sites and consolidate capacity. European paper giant Smurfit Kappa is now in the process of buying WestRock; analysts question whether WestRock’s footprint optimization activity could have been in anticipation of a deal.