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WestRock to reconfigure paper mill, cut 260 jobs

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WestRock Co. plans to reconfigure its North Charleston paper mill, reducing the company’s operating costs and cutting about 260 jobs early next year.

WestRock plans to permanently shut down one of the mill’s three paper machines and related physical infrastructure, according to a news release, eliminating linerboard capacity by approximately 288,000 tons.

The company said in the release that it plans to reduce its workforce by approximately 260 positions over a five-month period, starting in January.

“We understand that this reconfiguration will impact our employees, their families and the community,” CEO Steve Voorhees said in the release. “Our teams are working to provide support and resources to our employees and their families as we move forward.”

WestRock said it anticipates that the reconfiguration will increase its annual earnings by $40 million, primarily because of the reduction in operating costs from the shutdown of the machinery and associated infrastructure.

The reconfigured mill’s production capacity will total approximately 605,000 tons per year of three grades of paper: kraft linerboard; KraftPak, an unbleached folding carton kraft paper; and DuraSorb, a saturating kraft paper used for decorative laminate and industrial end uses.

“The actions that we are taking at our North Charleston mill will substantially improve the long-term competitiveness of the mill by reducing our ongoing operating costs and capital needs and focusing more than half of the mill’s production on the high-value, differentiated DuraSorb and KraftPak products,” Voorhees said. “Reducing the production of linerboard at this mill will help balance our supply with customer demand across our system.”

WestRock did not respond to voicemail and email messages by press time.

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September 10, 2019

Westrock is putting in a new, modern machine at the Florence mill. Shutting down old machines there too.