Paper company buys MRP facility

Published 12:01am Thursday, January 24, 2013

NATCHEZ — A paper manufacturing company has purchased the former Mississippi River Pulp facility, promising the creation of 100 new jobs.

According to Natchez Inc., the von Drehle Corporation will be locating manufacturing operations in Natchez, where it will continue to produce products manufactured by MRP in addition to its own products.

The company will make investments in converting equipment and installing a paper-manufacturing machine.

Mississippi River Pulp officially shut down Oct. 31, affecting a total of 79 employees, but efforts to sell the facility continued after its closure. The plant produced recycled pulp products.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said some of the former MRP employees have been brought back, but that hiring will be done on a case-by-case basis.

“(Von Drehle) is not set at hiring all of those workers back, but with the skill set they need, I am sure many of the former MRP people will be needed,” he said.

“We really have taken, through our partnership, something that was a terrible loss and have turned it into an actual significant gain in employment over the long-term for the area, so I am really excited to be able to replace (lost jobs) and add jobs on top of that. We are excited to make some ground instead of just maintaining where we were.”

Hiring will be done through the WIN Job Center, Russ said, and the company will have some initial training programs in place for new hires.

Von Drehle has manufacturing operations in North Carolina, Nevada and Tennessee. It is based out of Hickory, N.C., and sells towel, tissue and dispenser products.

“We believe the people, community and state are a good fit for von Drehle, and we appreciate their support throughout this process,” said Randy Bergman, chief operating officer of the von Drehle Corporation. “The company is excited to expand our operating footprint in Natchez.”

The von Drehle process for creating paper pulp is similar to that of MRP, Russ said, but the new company will expand the operations of the facility.

“As MRP would create pulp and ship their wet pulp off to other people to form their products, (von Drehle) will actually do a lot of stuff in-house,” he said.

The company has a large customer base that includes clients like Walmart and McDonald’s, Russ said, and has seen significant growth over the last 20 years. Natchez was one of more than a dozen sites in the running for the company’s latest expansion.

“Through the site selection process, (von Drehle) had multiple options in multiple states and their selection of Natchez-Adams County reinforces the fact that we can compete,” Russ said. “We thank von Drehle for its investment in Natchez-Adams County as well as its confidence in and commitment to our area and its workers. Von Drehle is a cornerstone and leader in the commercial and industrial paper products arena, and we look forward to having them call Natchez home.”

As part of an economic incentive package, Adams County will lend support to the project by providing fee-in-lieu tax abatements.

“We welcome von Drehle to our region and are pleased that we could offer a competitive local incentive package to meet the needs of this company,” Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said. “We are excited about this huge investment and the high paying jobs for the area and excited to see our people go back to work.”

The company also received tax incentive guidance from the Mississippi Development Authority when choosing to locate in Adams County.

“I am delighted von Drehle has decided to locate operations in Mississippi,” MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen said. “I am grateful to our partners at Natchez Inc. who worked so diligently with MDA to help find a buyer for the former Mississippi River Pulp facility. We were proud to have worked with von Drehle on this project and wish the company much success at its new Mississippi location.”

Natchez Inc. Chairwoman Sue Stedman said Natchez Inc. was “beyond proud” that Natchez was chosen as an expansion site for the company.

“(Von Drehle brings) with them quality, high value investment and stable job opportunities for Natchez and Adams County.  We look forward to welcoming this great corporate citizen to our industrial community, and will continue all efforts to ensure their successful location in the Miss-Lou,” she said

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he was happy to welcome the company to the state.

“I know Mississippi’s dedicated workforce, abundant natural resources and supportive business climate will serve von Drehle well, and I thank company officials for investing in our state and in our people,” he said.

A formal announcement ceremony about the purchase will be 3:30 Feb. 5 at the MRP site on Majorca Road. A timeline for opening was not given Wednesday.

Prior to its purchase in 2010 by the company that has now sold it to von Drehle, Mississippi River Pulp was Mississippi River Corporation.

When the plant opened in the late 1960s, it was a Diamond International manufacturing plant, where it produced fiber-based products such as egg cartons.