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Management Side
Graphic Packaging investing $136 million to modernize Macon, Georgia mill

MACON, Georgia (From news reports) -- Graphic Packaging International plans to invest $136.8 million in modernizing the equipment at its Macon facility.

The company is a leader in the design and manufacturing of packaging for commercial products, and the Macon mill makes paperboard used in packaging for the food and beverage industry.

The announcement was made this week at the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority meeting and by the Georgia Department of Economic Development in a news release.

While the investment will not lead to an increase in employment, it will help the company retain its 530 employees in Macon.

"With them making this kind of an investment, they will be with us for a very long time," said Robby Fountain, authority chairman. "This guarantees that we keep these jobs here in Macon and that means so much."

The authority approved a memorandum of understanding for up to $136.8 million with an option to go up to $50 million above that, and a bond resolution not to exceed $186.8 million for the capital project.

The plant runs 24/7 with three eight-hour shifts a day, said Scott Grimes, vice president and resident mill manager, who joined the Macon facility nearly five years ago. The employees come from within a 60-mile range of Macon to work at the facility.

"We're excited about our investment into the future at our Macon mill," Grimes said. "We've been modernizing the plant over a period of years and this investment will be targeted for continued improvement in our environment footprint, and also it certain improves our product quality ... and we are also looking to increase our operating efficiencies."

The company makes the packaging for a number of well-known brand products, including Pepsi, Coke, Nabisco and Smucker's, which are supplied worldwide.

"After a thorough analysis of our manufacturing needs and the available local resources, it was clear that Macon-Bibb Country was ideal for this capital investment," Graphic Packaging International President/CEO Michael Doss said in a news release. "A number of factors influenced our decision, including the facility location; access to a diverse, educated and skilled local workforce; and our relationship with Macon-Bibb County and the State of Georgia."

Mayor Robert Reichert, who also sits on the authority, said "this is another magnificent announcement. ... I'm thrilled and delighted to be part of the team and one of the players. ... We are thrilled with (Graphic Packaging's) decision to invest this kind of money in your plant here."

Graphic Packaging's work in Macon involves several other Georgia companies. It brings in Georgia pine lumber to make the paper, it uses kaolin clay from Middle Georgia mines in its package coatings and its products are shipped out of the Port of Savannah, Grimes said.

"They are our largest customer," said Tony Rojas, executive director for the Macon Water Authority. The water authority recently renegotiated a 10-year contract with the company, which creates about $3.3 million in revenue annually, he said.

The water authority treats about 7.5 million gallons of sewage a day, Rojas said.

"In the state of Georgia, it's the largest customer serviced by a public waste water treatment plant," he said.

Also, Graphic Packaging is a big supporter of the Ocmulgee Alive! River Cleanup, and Rojas said "they are a great corporate citizen."

Georgia was competing against other states to win this investment, and as an incentive, the industrial authority agreed to offer the company its traditional 10-year tax abatement schedule on the new equipment. This means the company will increasingly pay more taxes each year until it is paying the full amount of taxes by the end of the 10 years.

Based in Atlanta, Graphic Packaging Holding Co. is one of the largest producers of folding cartons in the U.S. The company, which began as Georgia Kraft, opened the Macon facility in 1948.

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