Looking Back: Union Camp announces expansion plans

Published 10:13 am Friday, April 13, 2018

by Clyde Parker

April 11, 1968
Union Camp Corporation announced this week that it has begun engineering studies to prepare for a multi-million dollar expansion at its Franklin, Virginia Mill.  The proposed expansion centers on the installation of a sixth paper machine.

A news release to The Tidewater News from Union Camp’s New York headquarters did not indicate a price tag on the expansion program. However, the release did refer to the fact that the new proposed expansion is expected to cost in excess of the $37 million expansion that was completed at Franklin in 1966. “Final cost estimates have not yet been determined pending the completion of engineering studies and a review of competitive bids on major equipment.”

According to Union Camp, if the expansion costs are within budget, construction will be started this summer with the new production coming on stream in the last half of 1970.

If the complete program is undertaken, in addition to the sixth paper machine, which will produce white grades of paper, a new bleached pulp plant will be built. Additionally, it has been recommended that auxiliary equipment be added to the wood yard, pulp mill, and the power plant to boost the productive capacity of those allied facilities.

Along with the expansion program, to further increase the Franklin Mill’s productivity, certain existing equipment and machinery will be upgraded.

When the expansion is completed, in late 1970, the mill’s average daily rate of production will increase from 900 to 1,200 tons of bleached paper and paperboard.

Union Camp’s Franklin Mill is already recognized as one of the largest bleached paper manufacturing facilities in the world.

At the present time, 1,850 people are employed at the Franklin Mill. Upon completion of the expansion, employment is expected to increase by approximately 200 people.

The plant’s annual payroll presently exceeds $11 million.  The additional 200 employees will swell the Franklin payroll to almost $13 million.

John “Jack” E. Ray III, Group Vice President, and, incidentally, a grandson of Camp Manufacturing Co. co-founder, James L. Camp, Sr., commented on the proposed expansion program.

“When we build these new facilities, we plan to utilize the latest technological developments in pollution control equipment,” he said. “This is an integral part of the program and reflects Union Camp’s continuing efforts to keep air and water effluents, as well as the use of water, at a minimum.”

It has been said, unofficially, that the proposed expansion will significantly cut down the fall-out of solid particulates that are present, occasionally, in the immediate vicinity of the Franklin Mill.

Union Camp officials in New York and Franklin did not elaborate on the details of the proposed expansion.  Rumors of the gigantic multi-million dollar program have circulated in Franklin since February.

Following a meeting of the Union Camp Board of Directors in New York, on Feb. 27, several unofficial comments were made at the Franklin mill concerning the proposed expansion. However, there was no official announcement at that time. 

The Company’s 1967 annual report was mailed to stockholders over the weekend. This report contained the first official announcement of the expansion. The report stated: “At our Franklin, Virginia, Mill, which now produces a wide range of white printing paper and food-board, extensive equipment additions and renovations in 1966 enabled us to make a much greater variety of those core products, an overall 12 percent production gain in the year 1967.

“Another paper machine at Franklin has been planned to enable us to realize our forecasted market potential.” 

No further announcements concerning the Franklin multi-million dollar expansion are expected immediately. Officials in Franklin and New York stated that further information will be provided when plans are completed.

James Piette, Resident Manager of Union Camp’s Franklin Mill, said Wednesday, “Right now we are in the stage of determining actual cost of the proposed expansion program.”

Piette explained that 1969 will be the real busy construction year.

“You won’t see much happening over here before this fall. The program should get going significantly about October.”

Completion of the expansion is expected in 1970, according to Piette.

No anticipated change in employment policy is expected at the Franklin Mill.

Piette said, “We’re going to continue to follow our policy of recruiting as many people as possible from the local area.”

Piette joined the company in 1951 as a construction engineer at the firm’s Savannah, Georgia, operation. He held several supervisory positions at Savannah and Franklin prior to being promoted to the position of Resident Manager at Franklin in 1964. Piette succeeded former Franklin Resident Manager John E. Ray III when Ray assumed a corporate vice presidential position in New York.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is magnolia101@charter.net