For decades, the Ashdown Mill has stood at the forefront of the pulp and paper industry. Now, this important employer and community partner in the Texarkana region is celebrating 50 years in business by looking back on its robust history.
The Making of a World-Class Mill
Since its dedication in the fall of 1968, the mill, originally owned by Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company, has continually grown and evolved. The facility underwent a series of updates in the 1970s and 1980s that culminated in 1991 with the addition of A64, the world’s largest fine paper machine at the time.
Dubbed “the Ashdown Express,” A64 represented a 67 percent increase in the mill’s paper production capacity. When Domtar acquired the mill from Georgia Pacific in 2001, it was well known in the industry for its world-class production capability and for its strong safety record — a reputation that continues to this day.
In 2016, Domtar made its largest investment to date — $160 million — to convert A64 into A1, one of the biggest pulp machines in the world. The investment made Domtar a leading producer of high-quality fluff pulp for various absorbent applications, such as baby diapers, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products.
Ashdown Mill continues to enjoy the steady and reliable wood access that helped it reach prominence in the industry. It played an important role in creating the Four States Timberland Owners Association — a small landowner initiative that has resulted in more than 500,000 acres of responsibly managed forestland receiving Forest Stewardship Council® certification.
Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence
This fall, employees and the community are celebrating 50 years of working together to responsibly manufacture products people use every day around the world, and to make the community a better place to work and live.
“The Ashdown employees’ focus on continuous improvement and living by Domtar’s core values of agility, caring and innovation has allowed the mill to delight customers for the past five decades,” says Domtar Pulp & Paper President Mike Garcia. “I know their commitment to remaining competitive and viable will continue to position the mill well for years to come.”
With nearly 800 employees, the Ashdown Mill is the largest employer in Little River County, Arkansas, and the benefits of its growth over the years have also extended to the local community through investments and partnerships in education, the environment and community enrichment.
In 2003, mill employees formed a Community Advisory Team to help improve quality of life in the surrounding community and allow mill and city leadership to stay up to date on happenings at the mill, discuss important issues and identify opportunities to invest in the community. In 2012, the team started its annual community auction that has since raised nearly $300,000 for community improvements by asking local businesses to donate goods and services to contribute to the cause. Today, the team has grown to include approximately 35 business, civic, education and government leaders.
“The mill’s involvement with the Community Advisory Team is a real source of pride for our employees,” says Tammy Waters, the mill’s communications and government affairs manager and Community Advisory Team leader. “As Ashdown’s largest employer, everyone knows someone who works at the mill. We’re proud to play a part in helping Ashdown be a place people are proud to call home.”
Mike Cranford, a local judge, says the county and the mill enjoy a relationship built on mutual respect and friendship. “It’s my opinion that Little River County and the surrounding region are much stronger and more stable because of the presence of Domtar’s Ashdown Mill.”
Tony Sangalli, a general mechanic, was one of the mill’s original hires in 1968 and is celebrating 50 years alongside the facility. His experience echoes the thoughts and feelings of many who reflect on the mill’s history.
“I’ve seen lots of changes and upgrades in my time at the mill. I’ve met a lot of good people and lost a lot of good people, but I wouldn’t change what I’ve gone through here,” Sangalli says. “It’s provided for my family throughout the last 50 years and I’m appreciative. I’m looking forward to the mill continuing into the future, keeping people employed and supporting the community for years to come.”