Green Bay Packaging to expand local operation, add up to 200 jobs, invest over $580M

Jeff Bollier and Doug Schneider, Green Bay Press Gazette

Published 9:44 a.m. CT June 12, 2018 | Updated 8:30 a.m. CT June 13, 2018

GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packaging Inc. plans to build a new paper mill and invest more than $500 million in its Brown County operations.  

The project would be one of the largest single business projects in Brown County's history and will rival the investment the Green Bay Packers have made over time in Lambeau Field and the Titletown District.

It will enable the company to retain about 600 jobs and lay the groundwork for up to 200 more. Company officials expect it will take until 2021 before the existing mill shuts down and the new mill goes into operation.

"We're very excited. This is a huge project for us, by far the biggest thing we've ever done in the history of our company," Green Bay Packaging CEO Will Kress said. "It's kind of a leap of faith."

Kress announced the expansion Tuesday morning. He was joined by Gov. Scott Walker, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, who announced government incentives totaling almost $90 million for the project. 

"This is a big risk for them and we're going to share some of it with them," Schmitt said. "These will be great-paying jobs. We're happy with the commitment they're making. Losing these guys would have been devastating."

The additional jobs are expected to be created by 2022. About 1,000 construction workers will be required to build the new mill, which will replace the 71-year-old paper mill in Green Bay.

Green Bay Packaging CEO Will Kress talks about the decision to invest more than $500 million in building a new mill. Jeff Bollier, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

It will increase the company's production capacity by 50 percent, while a switch from coal to natural gas will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent per ton of paper produced. The company also said the new mill will not discharge wastewater into the Fox River.

It would be capable of trimming paperboard up to 300 inches in width, replacing a paperboard machine with a 164-inch trim in operation since 1950. 

The company has spent years evaluating the construction of a new mill. Green Bay Packaging Executive Vice President Bryan Hollenbach said the company explored shutting down the mill and buying paper instead of producing it, as well as building the new mill in Indiana, Iowa or Missouri. 

"But the Kress family said, 'Do it right here in Green Bay, Wisconsin,'" Hollenbach said. "It's the right thing."

'Long-term commitment'

City, county and state officials delivered a significant incentives package after the company asked them for help to make the project viable in Green Bay instead of a different community. 

"This is a long-term commitment, and we appreciate the opportunity to keep a well-known brand here," Streckenbach said. "A lower Midwest state makes sense since it would connect them to logistics corridors and distributors, but the loss here would have been devastating. We wanted to find a way to make this mill work right here."

Wisconsin Economic Development CEO Mark Hogan said the state will provide $60 million in enterprise zone tax credits tied to job retention and creation. Streckenbach said the county will spend $5.3 million on infrastructure to create a Fox River papermaking corridor in the area.