GREEN BAY, Wisc. (From news reports) -- Green Bay Packaging Inc. officials on Monday celebrated a major environmental milestone in the construction of the company's new $500-million paper mill.
The company turned off its coal-fired boiler at 11 p.m. Sunday and switched to a natural-gas fired boiler, a move that will help make it "the most environmentally-friendly mill in the United States," Bryan Hollenbach, the company's executive vice president, said.
"We are no longer powered by coal-fired boilers, we are now all on natural gas," Hollenbach said. "That is a major milestone and it happened on the exact day we planned it."
Hollenbach said the transition to natural gas is not the only good news related to the massive construction project in the 1600 block of Quincy Street, just south of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge. He said construction of the new mill and hiring to support it are both ahead of schedule.
"You hear a lot of bad news in the world today. The good news is we committed a very significant investment of $500 million in the area. We're actually going to be investing more than that into this area. We also made a commitment to hiring 200 employees across the state of Wisconsin. We're well ahead of that commitment as well. We're exceeding our commitment."
Hollenbach declined to say how much more the project will cost or the number of employees it now anticipates hiring.
He said the company has started hiring new employees and has developed a training program for younger and veteran employees.
The new mill project was announced in June 2018 after state, Brown County and Green Bay officials committed more than $80 million in incentives to the project. Construction started in August 2018.
Green Bay Packaging's existing mill employs about 600 people and produces containerboard, display materials, corrugated boxes used in packaging and folding cartons among other things. The new mill will double the 71-year-old mill's current production of 164-inch containerboard.
By building the new mill in Green Bay, the company retained 600 local jobs. Countywide, Green Bay Packaging employs more than 1,100 people.
Hollenbach said Miron Construction and its more than 600 subcontractors have kept the job on track. Here's where the project stands today:
Engineering and design work is more than 50 percent complete
About 20 percent of construction is complete
A lot of steel erection still lies ahead
Installation of the paper machine and several other pieces of large, related equipment will be done after steel and construction progresses.
Local elected officials and employees were briefed Monday on the project's progress. Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach called the company's investment in the Green Bay area and its use of as many Wisconsin-based contractors as possible "amazing."
Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich noted the switch from coal to natural gas is "following through on their commitment to the community and the environment."
Green Bay Packaging estimates the switch to natural gas will cut sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions by more than 90 percent. The new mill will produce more paper with lower emissions, cutting the company's greenhouse gas emissions per ton of paper produced by more than 50 percent.
The new mill will also use a reclaimed water system that means the company will eventually be able to operate without drawing or discharging any water from the Fox River.
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