CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Ramping up tissue production at Resolute Forest Products' Calhoun, Tennessee, plant has taken longer than expected, but it's still seen as key to the factory's growth.
"It's the growth side of the business," said company Chief Executive Officer Yves Laflamme on Friday. "There is big potential in Calhoun to grow tissue and pulp."
By the numbers
› 560 — Resolute employees in Calhoun
› $67.9 million — Plant payroll and benefits
› 66,000 — Short tons of premium tissue capacity
Source: Resolute Forest Products
The plant employs about 560 people, and its workforce is stable, though the Montreal, Canada-based businesses continues to hire workers to replace those who leave or retire, he said following the company's annual meeting in Cleveland.
In fact, the company is trying to keep around some employees about retirement age, Laflamme said.
"One of the issues lately is finding employees. They don't have the experience of those leaving for retirement," he said about one of America's biggest pulp mills.
Earlier this decade, the company shifted from making newsprint to tissue. Resolute announced in 2015 that it would enter the tissue market with construction of a $270 million tissue machine and converting operation in Calhoun to use the high-quality wood pulp made at the facility.
Laflamme said tissue production ramp-up is at approximately 75%.
"We're pretty pleased at what we've seen," he said. "We have the customers. We're doing better at converting. We have knowledgeable people in tissue that we didn't have in the beginning."
Earlier this week, the company marked the opening of a 300,000-square-foot distribution center that provides storage for tissue products made at the mill, Laflamme said.
In terms of the future, he said, the plant has to prove to the company's board of directors it can deliver on what was promised related to tissue production.
"Hopefully, we can get there and think about the next step," Laflamme said. "We need to deliver on our commitment first."
Concerning the issue of trade, he said the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is "a pretty good deal" for all three nations.
"We hope it will be approved and put it behind us," Laflamme said.
But, other trade issues still exist particularly when it comes to lumber, he said.
"That's something we believe should be free trade on that," Laflamme said. "Hopefully, we'll find a way to settle that legally or with a deal."
Also this week, Resolute officials met with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
Seth Kursman, Resolute's vice president of corporate communications, said Fleischmann has been "an ardent supporter" of the company.
"He has worked his tail off to support our operations," he said.
Resolute acquired the plant in 2007 with the merger of the former Abitibi-Consolidated and Bowater companies. The site was one of the earliest newsprint plants in the South when it was built in 1954.
Resolute owns or operates some 40 manufacturing facilities, as well as power generation assets in the United States and Canada.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.