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Welcome von Drehle: New company already hiring

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith presents a key to the city to von Drehle Corporation president Steve von Drehle during Tuesday’s economic development announcement at the company’s new facility on Majorca Road.

NATCHEZ — The von Drehle corporation has already started hiring and plans to have its Natchez property — the former Mississippi River Pulp — back to paper pulp recycling by mid-March.

Following the formal announcement of the company’s plans for the Natchez plant Tuesday, von Drehle’s Chief Operating Officer Randy Bergman said 12 people including administrative staff have already been hired.

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Randy Bergman, chief operating office for von Drehle Corporation, applauds the work of Natchez Inc. and Natchez Now during Tuesday’s announcement.

Between 40 and 50 more will be hired to meet the short-term goal of reopening the pulp recycling plant, Bergman said, with that hiring effort ramping up in the next two to three weeks.

Those interested in applying should inquire at the WIN Job Center, Bergman said.

In the mid-term, Bergman said von Drehle plans to install a paper machine at the Natchez facility, where it will produce paper products that will be used as paper towel and tissue products. Long-term, the company will install a second paper machine.

More than 100 jobs will be created, he said.

The MRP facility will have to undergo some improvements to accommodate the machines, and the company will make an investment of between $60 and $75 million in the community just for putting in one paper machine, Bergman said.

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant applauds during the event.

The company’s president, Steve von Drehle, said the company was started in 1974 as a firm representing manufacturers but in 1999 bought into manufacturing. Now, von Drehle products are in use in half of the Walmart locations and half of the McDonald’s locations in the United States.

“My brother and I made the decision to get into manufacturing, and we have grown from five employees to 340, and we hope here to make it 440 plus,” he said.

The company pays 100 percent of health insurance premiums for employees and their families, von Drehle said, and its employees own a portion of the company.

“Those employees that join us here will become employee owners, and we look forward to having them on board,” he said.

Bergman said the company produces 56,000 tons of paper annually.

“We make enough paper product to go to the moon and back twice a year,” he said.

Bergman said the company first found the Natchez site by reading a news article, but Natchez was in competition with several other locations.

“When we first came to visit the site, we got lost and ended up in downtown, which was the best mistake we ever made,” he said. “We fell in love with your city.”

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Phillip West, vice chair of Natchez Inc., addresses the crowd welcoming von Drehle to Natchez.

But Steve von Drehle said what sold the company on the MRP location was the dedication of the local economic development team.

“When you have got a lot of money you are going to have to spend, everybody wants it,” he said. “Everything we have asked for from (Natchez Inc. Executive Director) Chandler Russ or the Mississippi Development Authority, it was very forthcoming and very accurate, and they didn’t paint a rosy picture that wasn’t there, and it was very helpful.”

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant prepares to pose for a photo with Cub Scouts Coleman Carter, Jacob Moore and Hayden Beasley following the announcement Tuesday.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said economic development can be thought of as a team sport.

“It is not just the governor, it is not just the Mississippi Development Authority, it is the counties, the cities, the workforce, the schools, the community colleges — and in Mississippi, we know how to be a team,” Bryant said.

“Our men and women in Mississippi can compete with anyone in the world. We show up on time, we deliver a good day’s work, and we are loyal to our employers, something that has become a rare commodity in the workforce today.”

Adams County Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said a group of Cub Scouts who were in attendance at the announcement reminded him of the real importance of such announcements.

“It is not about us as elected officials, Chandler Russ or the governor, it is about the future of Adams County,” he said. “(The company) had other choices, but they were sold on Adams County, and I am truly appreciative of them making this investment.”

Natchez Alderwoman Sarah Smith presented Steve von Drehle with a key to the city.

The company announced Jan. 23 it had purchased the MRP facility on Majorca Road. MRP closed its operation down Oct. 31.

Prior to May 2010, MRP was Mississippi River Corporation.