HODGE, La. – Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the start of construction Wednesday on a $97 million project to expand and modernize the WestRock Company paper mill, a major employer and driver of economic activity in Jackson Parish since it began operations in 1928.
The investment in construction of a new woodyard and new equipment will increase capacity and efficiencies and reduce operating costs at the facility, the company said. It comes on the heels of the recently completed five-year modernization plan that the company announced in 2017. WestRock employs more than 450 people with an annual payroll of more than $44 million in north Louisiana.
“WestRock’s latest investment in this facility is an investment in the workers of north Louisiana and the rural revitalization of our state,” Gov. Edwards said at a groundbreaking ceremony attended by company executives and state, regional and local government and business leaders in Hodge. “These critical upgrades ensure the long-term viability of a facility responsible for more than 450 direct jobs and hundreds more indirect jobs in Jackson Parish. We’re grateful for the company’s continuing commitment to Louisiana’s workers, to our rural communities, and to the growth and diversification of our timber industry.”
The Hodge mill, situated on a 1,700-acre site, was operated by Rock-Tenn Company until the company merged with MeadWestvaco in 2015 to form WestRock. The multinational paper and packaging solutions manufacturer has 320 locations employing 50,000 employees in 30 countries. Its Hodge facility produces high-quality container board that is used in manufacturing corrugated containers.
- Initial start-up of new wood processing equipment is scheduled for the second half of 2023.
- Construction is expected to continue into 2024, with a final completion date to be determined.
- The company is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:
- Patrick Kivits, president of corrugated packaging, WestRock: “WestRock is committed to delivering on the promise of a sustainable future. The planned woodyard improvements are expected to reduce the use of source material by 4% while yielding higher product volume. This makes our planet better and contributes to the long-term operational success of both our facility and the Hodge community.”
Louisiana State Rep. Jack McFarland: “The timber sector has been a powerful economic engine in our rural communities for generations, and investments like this one keep that engine running smoothly. On behalf of District 13, I thank WestRock for securing jobs and supporting contractors who rely on the paper mill for their livelihood, and applaud the north Louisiana workers whose skill and dedication gave the company confidence to invest in Jackson Parish.”
Louisiana Economic Development is responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant economy. It is the only state agency in the U.S. accredited by the International Economic Development Council, boasting award-winning programs like LED FastStart, rated the No. 1 customized workforce training program in the U.S. 13 years in a row. In 2021, LED attracted 64 new economic development projects representing over 18,100 new direct and indirect jobs, 9,700 retained jobs and more than $20.5 billion in new capital investment. Explore how LED cultivates jobs and economic opportunity for the people of Louisiana and employers of all sizes at OpportunityLouisiana.com.