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Under one roof: Plant unique for von Drehle Corporation

Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Von Drehle engineer Tanya Richardson speaks to a crowd of about 70 Natchez rotary club members at the Carriage House restaurant Wednesday.
Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat — Von Drehle engineer Tanya Richardson speaks to a crowd of about 70 Natchez rotary club members at the Carriage House restaurant Wednesday.

NATCHEZ — The von Drehle Corporation’s Natchez plant is on its way to being the company’s only “all-under-one-roof” facility.

Von Drehle engineer Tanya Richardson told the Natchez Rotary Club at its Wednesday meeting that the Natchez plant would have pulp converting and paper manufacturing capabilities, the company’s only plant to have both.

The company manufactures toilet paper, towel tissue and similar products for the away-from-home market, meaning the products are sold by janitorial supply companies to companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s.

The company operates at the former Mississippi River Pulp location, which von Drehle purchased in January after MRP announced a shut down of its operation in October 2012.

Richardson said the company is gaining ground toward getting employee numbers up to the point they were prior to the shutdown of MRP.

“We have 30 employees, and prior to the shutdown we had 80,” she said. “We have started producing pulp, which put more people back to work.”

When the plant gets up to full speed, Richardson said, the company would have approximately 100 employees. Those employees will likely include more professional staff, including engineers, Richardson said.

The task now, Richardson said, is getting customers back.

“We have to tell the new story, so they have confidence in us and know they can count on us,” she said. “We’re here for the long haul.”

The company will soon install converting equipment, Richardson said, which makes the final product.

The equipment takes the parent rolls, which can be 92 inches in diameter, and rolls them to make a log on a core.

“Imagine a toilet paper roll, but 20-feet long,” Richardson said.

Those rolls go down an assembly line where they are cut and eventually packaged and sold.

Richardson said the Natchez plant would also probably be von Drehle’s largest plant in terms of square footage.

Richardson pointed out that von Drehle remains very involved and committed to the communities it is in. The company is headquartered in Hickory, N.C., and has plants in Cordova and Maiden, N.C., and Las Vegas.

“The financial commitment they’re making to Natchez, as well as the surrounding areas, it’s large, very large … millions and millions and millions of dollars,” she said. “We’re really excited, and (Natchez Inc. Executive Director) Chandler Russ worked so hard to try to get von Drehle committed to Natchez, and that’s part of the reason he wanted to get them here, because the investment dollars mean so much to everyone here.”

Richardson also highlighted various certifications the company has and said the company is working to get a Forest Stewardship Council certification. The certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

Because many of the companies that use von Drehle products receive a grade on their environmental impact, Richardson said the company has a strong environmental stewardship program.

“In a lot of cases, if you don’t have a good enough scorecard, environmentally, you pretty much can’t even quote a business to get them,” Richardson said.

The company is also looking to replace equipment in the mill, Richardson said.

“When the employees see that, and we talk about that, the employees feel very comfortable with that and that their future is safe as well, because it’s been pretty rocky,” she said.