Mill reuse plans on track

Published 9:33 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

FRANKLIN—Two companies that have publicly expressed interest in using portions of the International Paper mill campus in Isle of Wight County say they are on track with proposed manufacturing facilities that would create more than 200 jobs.

Along with some 220 jobs that IP is creating to make fluff pulp at the mill, total employment at the site could exceed 400.

Franklin Pellets LLC, a company co-founded by businessman and former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, is in the final stages of plans to open a wood pellet plant on the mill property, said principal partner Peter O’Keefe.

“We’re still moving along,” O’Keefe said. “The due-diligence phase is still on time and on budget.”

O’Keefe said the company expects to provide a public update on the project in the first quarter of 2012.

“We are very much on target to begin construction during the second half of next year, and we will be looking to begin exporting the product in the second half of 2013,” he said.

The plant, if it becomes operational, would become the second wood pellet facility in Western Tidewater. Enviva LP has purchased property in the Turner Tract industrial park for a pellet mill.

TAK Investments, the parent company of ST Paper, is also in the final stages of due diligence to bring a recycled fiber producer to the IP mill site, said Lisa Perry, director of economic development for Isle of Wight County.

“They are finishing up a final proposal with IP,” Perry said.

She said the company plans to create 85 new jobs in the first phase of the project and 165 in a second phase.

“The employment is important,” Perry said of the interest in the mill property. “We’re looking forward to see where we are when we get the final numbers for these projects.”

Tak’s proposal would use an existing recycled-fiber plant at the mill to produce post-consumer recycled fiber that would be made into tissue products.

The project calls for the modification of a paper machine into a tissue machine, which would produce up to 70,000 tons per year of recycled tissue. The facility is targeted to be operational in the third quarter of 2012.

IP has begun hiring for its fluff pulp facility and expects to be operational in June.