NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership recently highlighted Domtar’s Kingsport Mill as an example of a successful economic development partnership during its Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour.
Each year, the economic development organization for Sullivan County, Tennessee, hosts a two-day event attended by business leaders and site consultants potentially interested in doing business in the region. The event always includes a visit with a leading industry partner, and this year it was our Kingsport Mill, which is committed to an economic development partnership that helps the region thrive.
“We chose to visit Domtar because their $350 million investment to completely transform their plant has been an excellent example of a partnership between city and industry, including trading parcels of land to make it work,” says NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker. “Domtar has always been a great partner and is always very involved in the community.”
“We are a proud member of Sullivan County, and our transformation from a paper mill into Domtar’s first 100 percent-recycled packaging facility wouldn’t have been possible without NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership’s collaboration,” says Kingsport Mill Manager Troy Wilson. “Our community leaders understand manufacturing is an important economic foundation, and that direct and indirect employment are valued drivers of the local economy.”
That economic development partnership is one reason why the mill continues to be a leading Kingsport employer that attracts highly skilled people from across the region. In January, many employees who once made paper at the mill enthusiastically returned to be part of its exciting next chapter.
Wilson and the leadership team took advantage of the period when the mill was shut down for major construction to update its work system and design a schedule that provides employees a better quality of life.
“The new approach is a high-performance work system with a focus on flow-to-work and pay for skills,” Wilson says. “The new work design, coupled with a new work schedule, gives employees a better quality of life by allowing employees more time off.”
The new strategy is working. Though many employers and industries are challenged by labor shortages, the Kingsport Mill is fully staffed with a great pipeline of prospective employees who want to be part of Domtar’s team.
At more than 100 years old, the Kingsport Mill is older than the city. The fact that the mill is still a vital part of Kingsport’s downtown today and remains committed to this economic development partnership shows just how deeps the city’s manufacturing roots are.
Domtar Packaging Senior Vice President Steve Henry says the team at the mill continues to make good progress toward resuming operation in the fourth quarter, deepening those roots even further.
“All major equipment is in place, and we’re very excited to start the mill,” he says. “We are grateful for the collaboration with our community partners and our enthusiastic workforce for making this possible.”
As part of the NETWORKS tour, Wilson and Henry met with about 14 prospective business representatives and offered a tour of the mill’s construction progress and discussed why Domtar leadership chose Kingsport for this conversion project, which will result in a mill capable of producing and marketing about 600,000 tons of high-quality recycled linerboard and corrugated medium annually.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to host the Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour,” Wilson says. “NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership are great allies, and we’re proud to help promote Sullivan County as an excellent place to work and live.”