GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (From news reports) -- A recent change to the Green Bay skyline of smokestacks and steeples was among the investments that set up Georgia-Pacific's Broadway Mill for a $500 million expansion announced Thursday.
Georgia-Pacific Corp. announced that will add a new paper machine, converting equipment and 150 new jobs at the mill located at 1919 S. Broadway.
The expansion will take until mid-2024 to complete, said Mike Kawleski, Georgia-Pacific spokesperson. Once done, the 102-year-old Broadway Mill will employ about 1,000 people. Kawleski said the investment in the Green Bay mill reflects the local workforce's efficiency, productivity, safety and sustainability.
"Green Bay is looked upon as a group of facilities that delivers some results," Kawleski said.
The Broadway Mill's conversion from coal to natural gas between 2015 and 2021, which also resulted in removal of the smokestacks, helped clear the way for this expansion, Kawleski said.
"When you get rid of obsolete assets, you have space for new investments such as these," Kalewski said. "This whole paper-making complex -- the machines, the converters, the infrastructure -- will go where coal once was. We need to modernize gradually and continuously, especially when you have a mill that is over 100 years old."
The company turned off its last coal-fired boiler in late 2020 and removed the last, 400-foot smokestack this year.
"It went very well," Kawleski said of the removal effort. "The weather plays a huge component when you're dealing with something that tall and big, but really it came down safely."
The conversion from coal to natural gas is one of several improvements Georgia-Pacific made to the mill in the last seven years at a cost of about $150 million. Beyond gas boilers, the company has also installed a $7 million towel line, upgraded the bath tissue converting line, spent $10 million on laser-guided vehicles to move material around the mill and done extensive renovations to existing buildings and grounds.
Georgia-Pacific estimates it has invested more than $700 million in its Green Bay paper mills, on Broadway and Day Street, since 2006. The expansion announced Thursday would boost that investment to $1.2 billion.
The paper products manufacturer in 2019 briefly considered a different expansion plan for the Broadway Mill, but ultimately did not pursue it.
The new paper machine and converting equipment will produce paper products that consumers buy in stores. Georgia-Pacific brands include AngelSoft and Quilted Northern toilet paper, and Brawny and Sparkle paper towels.
Engineering work has already begun for the expansion. A company media release indicates the expansion will require the work of 500 construction and contracted workers.
Kawleski said he does not anticipate the company requesting financial assistance from the city of Green Bay or Brown County, but that it is discussing potential assistance with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Georgia-Pacific's investment shows the community is making the case that companies large and small should invest here, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach told the Press-Gazette.
"You could see the pride in the individuals who were working there - they understood if they're able to produce product out of this mill, to prove the work-ethic and safety record ... it would make sense for them to make the investment," Streckenbach said. "This is just a huge win to those people who work there."