WestRock to close Kimball paper factory; shutdown will cost 61 jobs

The former National Poster/WestRock facility is on Holtzclaw Avenue.

One of the biggest manufacturing plants in Kimball, Tennessee will shut down in May, eliminating the last 61 jobs at the 24-year-old facility.

WestRock, the Atlanta-based pulp and paper product company, said Thursday it will permanently close its digital printing operations in Kimball in May and consolidate such production at a similar plant in Chattanooga.

"There is extra capacity in Chattanooga and, in order to remain competitive, the company is moving production to that facility," said John Pensec, director of corporate communications for WestRock. "As a company, we balance our commitment to delivering value to our customers with the need to maximize the efficiency of our manufacturing operations. We are pleased that there will be opportunities for some employees to transfer to the Chattanooga facility."

WestRock, which was formed in July 2015 after the merger of MeadWestvaco and RockTenn, gave a WARN notice of the plant closing to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development last week. The Southeast Tennessee Development District will work to help find other jobs for the dislocated workers.

Marion County Mayor David Jackson said he has already begun trying to recruit a new business to move into the 235,000-square-foot WestRock facility in Kimball after it is closed.

"We hate to lose WestRock out of Marion County," Jackson said. "They've been a good community partner for many years and we're sorry to see them leave. But we are actively working to get another company in there to fill this vacancy and we've already had a couple of businesses that have expressed an interest."

Kimball Mayor Rex Pesnell said the facility is for sale and he is hopeful another company will fill the void created by the WestRock closing.

The plant at 2048 Industrial Boulevard was originally built in 1994 and opened the following year as a Rock-Tenn facility.

WestRock is currently the second largest packaging company in the United States and one of the world's largest paper and packaging companies annual sales of more than $15 billion in 30 countries.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340