Boosted investment to create 100 additional jobs
Shandong Sun Paper announced on Tuesday plans to increase its investment by $500 million in a planned paper mill in south Arkansas. New plans for the project would also increase estimated employment from 250 to 350 jobs.
The facility, according to Mike Preston, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Council, will produce linerboards – a product used to make cardboard boxes.
“They’ve been going through all their feasibility studies and the permitting process,” said Preston. “In that time, they’ve realized that they want to change from a fluff-pulp mill to a linear board. That’s going to increase their investment from about $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, and increase the number of jobs from 250 to 350.”
The decision to boost the investment, Preston said, is likely the result of an increased demand in cardboard due to online shopping.
“This is what goes into making cardboard,” he said. “Market conditions are changing, and because of overnight delivery, cardboard is in high demand. China had its biggest ecommerce year ever, and it’s only projected to grow… It’ll be even more environmentally friendly than before.”
The plant, he said, is expected to have a strong impact on the timber industry in south Arkansas. Natural resources, like an abundance of timber, has helped market the state to foreign investors, especially in China.
Shandong Ruyi Technology Group, a textile manufacturing giant from the same Chinese province as Sun Paper, is expected to begin work on their new cotton processing facility in Forrest City this summer. According to Preston, the access to locally grown cotton played a major factor in the company’s decision to invest more than $400 million in the project.
According to Preston, groundwork on the Sun Paper mill in Clark County will likely begin by the end of the year. Sun Paper is expected to use up to 4 million tons of the state’s pine timber a year.