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Hodge paper mill upgrade saves thousands of jobs

JACKSON PARISH, La. - More than 4,000 jobs could be saved by a $200 million expansion of the WestRock paper mill in Hodge in a deal aided by state incentives.

Gov. John Bel Edwards' and his economic development Secretary Don Pierson made the announcement Wednesday at the mill as first reported by USA Today Network.

“WestRock’s Hodge mill has played a vital role in the Jackson Parish economy for nearly 90 years,” Edwards said. “We applaud the company for this substantial commitment, which will enhance mill operations and sustain hundreds of jobs in the area for many years to come. The state of Louisiana is happy to assist in securing this important project for North Louisiana.”

The plant employs about 450 workers with a $28 million annual payroll, but the mill supports about 3,700 indirect jobs, said state Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield.

The project will be less of an expansion and more of an upgrade to keep the plant competitive, McFarland and state Sen. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, said.

"This project creates stability for the largest private employer in Jackson Parish, and I want to thank the governor and the company for their work to make it happen," McFarland said. "The indirect jobs that support this plant stretch throughout Louisiana and even into Arkansas."

"Make no mistake about it; this plant is the economic engine of an entire region," Fannin said.

Pierson said the state "was in stiff competition" for the company's investment with WestRock's other plants across the South.

"There are thousands of jobs impacted in the harvesting of timber in a large radius around the plant," Pierson said. "Truckers, mechanics, retailers and many, many small businesses will be impacted by the commitment of West Rock to continue its investment in the Hodge plant."

The Hodge mill opened in 1928. It also supplies electricity and wastewater treatment services to the Village of Hodge and surrounding area. 

“WestRock is a proud member of the Hodge and Jackson Parish communities, and we’re pleased to partner with the state of Louisiana on this initiative for our Hodge mill,” said Tom Stigers, executive vice president of WestRock. “We appreciate the tremendous support offered by Gov. Edwards, Secretary Pierson and our state and local elected officials, and we look forward to continuing to contribute to the Hodge and Jackson Parish communities.”

Louisiana offered an incentive package that includes a performance-based tax rebate of $1.5 million a year for five years. The company is also expected to tap the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

“WestRock’s continued investment in its Hodge paper mill will ensure that high-quality manufacturing jobs remain in North Louisiana for future generations," said North Louisiana Economic Department President Scott Martinez. "NLEP has a long-term relationship with WestRock and its representatives and provides economic development services in Jackson Parish.”


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