GREEN BAY (From news reports) -- Georgia-Pacific Corp. is taking preliminary steps toward a massive, 458,000-square-foot expansion of the 100-year-old Broadway Mill property.
No decision has been made about the project, but Mike Kawleski, the company's local spokesman, said Georgia-Pacific has been exploring a project to add new production and improvements to the mill for some time.
While the expansion is no guarantee, Kawleski said the company will remove both of the mill's 400-foot smokestacks and a small coal pile from the site. He said the first smokestack will be removed this year because it is no longer used after the company replaced a coal-fired boiler with a gas-fired one in 2015. The second smokestack will be removed in 2020 after the mill's other coal-fired boiler is replaced.
"The mill's been a landmark for many many decades of its 100-year history," Kawleski said. "It won't just change the silhouette of the mill but the silhouette of the city."
Green Bay Economic Development Director Kevin Vonck said the news puts the city in line to land a second, significant investment by the paper industry. Green Bay Packaging is in the midst of building a new $580 million mill on its Quincy Street site in Green Bay.
"With Green Bay Packaging's investment and Georgia Pacific's possible investment at the Broadway Mill, it shows we've got the supply chain in place, the knowledge, and the skills that show Green Bay is a good place for them to continue their investment," Vonck said. "There are still goods that there's no electronic replacement for."
At 458,000 square feet, the mill expansion would be large enough to hold two of the Shawano Avenue Meijer stores and all of the floor space in Foxconn's six-story downtown Green Bay office building.
An architect's rendering of the plant expansion was included in an application for a conditional use permit sent this week to the Green Bay Plan Commission.
The permit would be required because parts of the mill expansion could be as tall as 90 feet, exceeding the city's 35-foot height limit on general industrial buildings.
No immediate action on the permit is scheduled at this time.
Kawleski said even without the expansion, Georgia-Pacific has invested an estimated $500 million in new production lines, equipment and physical improvements to the Broadway Mill since the Koch Industries bought it in 2005.
He said $150 million in mill improvements in the last five years have included:
A $23 million gas boiler
A $7 million towel line, with a second one in development
$26 million on upgrades and expansion of a bath tissue converting line
$10 million in laser-guided vehicles to move material around the mill
New roofs, parking lots and other physical improvements
A new electrical substation and distribution lines
More environmental controls for the remaining coal-fired boilers and
Replacement of two wastewater clarifiers.
The company's coal pile removal plans would not have any impact or connection to the region's ongoing effort to relocate the C. Reiss coal piles from their present home further north on Broadway.
Austin Cofrin established the Broadway Mill in 1919 when he founded Fort Howard Corporation. Georgia-Pacific has operated the Broadway Mill and the Day Street Mill, 500 Day St., since 2000 when the company bought Fort Howard Corp. and Fort James Corp.