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2 buyers considering facility: Companies seek to do similar business

NATCHEZ — Even as employees whose jobs ended Wednesday with the closure of Mississippi River Pulp’s Natchez plant begin the process of figuring out what to do next, the company and local economic development authorities are working to sell the property and possibly get people back to work.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said Thursday he is working with two potential buyers for the property, one of which is a company already in the pulp recycling industry and one of which would be getting into the business for the first time.

MRP officially closed down Oct. 31 after the company spent several months searching for a buyer for the recycled pulp fiber facility. The company had bought the former Mississippi River Corporation in 2010, shortly after MRC declared bankruptcy. When MRP announced the plant would close last week, company officials cited demand issues that had not been resolved since the 2010 purchase.

Russ said the two entities he is working with are looking at using a recycled pulp process similar to what MRP used, and the one already in the recycling business would be expanding its current operations.

If one of the two companies moves forward with a proposal MRP deems acceptable, that could bode well for the 79 employees who worked there at the plant’s close.

“The employees that were there at MRP had a long history of working with that product and being able to manufacture a world-class product, and so the ability to have existing trained labor into that field is something that is also advantageous to those who are interested in operating the plant as it is,” Russ said.

If the facility is not ultimately sold to a pulp recycler, Russ said the property has plenty of industrial advantages that can be advertised elsewhere, including its own wastewater treatment and pre-treatment facilities, a rail spur that takes it into the Natchez-Adams County Port and existing infrastructure for water, gas and electricity in place.

“The building itself is a good building it has got high ceilings and it also has warehouse and storage capacity and a manufacturing area as well,” Russ said. “It is able to be modified for several types of manufacturing, and its ability to easily be retrofitted for other types of manufacturing is really one of its strong selling points.”

Because the company is still in the process of trying to sell the facility, officials on site declined to comment Thursday.

Workers affected by the closure met onsite with the Mississippi Office of Employment Security’s rapid response team tasked with helping them find a place in the state’s workforce.

Before the plant’s operations were taken over by MRC in 1991, Diamond International operated it for decades, manufacturing fiber-based products.