Canada-based Irving Consumer Products plans to invest $400 million in a manufacturing plant in Bibb County, creating about 200 jobs.
The announcement came Wednesday morning at Terminal Station before a large crowd of local, state and national officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal; Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; and Wilbur Ross, the U.S. secretary of commerce.
In Macon, Irving will produce soft bath tissue and paper towels. Its state-of-the-art, 700,000-square-foot facility will be built on 136 acres in the Sofkee Industrial Park off Ga. 247 and Allen Road. It should be completed in 2019.
The company will be the second large manufacturing company in the industrial park, joining Kumho Tire Co. The grand opening of Kumho’s $450 million, 1-million-square-foot plant was in May 2016.
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“This whole region is going to be impacted by this announcement,” Wilson said. “This is the beginning of a relationship that will last for years and years. ... It’s great that you came to the No. 1 state to do business.”
Engineering and planning for the Irving facility are underway, and construction is set to begin this summer. More than 540 people will be working on site at the height of construction, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“Selecting Macon for our new facility provides us with an opportunity to establish a footprint in a region that has proven itself as being a strong supporter of business, said co-CEO Robert Irving. He and his brother, Jim Irving, share that title. “It will allow us to reach key markets and will help to continue to drive our growth.”
Irving said he was “impressed throughout the entire process” while working with local and state officials to bring the plant here. The company had considered numerous locations in several states and had been working on the project for about three years.
He said Macon was chosen for the plant “No. 1 for its people, the warmth. ... Their passion for their community really set Macon apart. ... And on top of that, it was also the location being here in the Southeast in terms of the infrastructure, the logistics ... for our customers.”
The company is looking to stay in Macon a long time, he said. The company’s plant in New York is more than 100 years old and employs multigenerations of workers.
“We expect to build that same legacy here in Macon,” he said. “We are here today because of my father’s dream. ... I’m proud to say we will be in Macon for a very, very long time.”
The company’s various divisions are responsible for its paper-making business from the tree to the end user. Much of the wood will come from New Brunswick, Canada, where it’s based, and the company’s woodlands in Maine, then shipped by rail to Macon.
“The more we learned about the Irving family companies, the more we knew they would make great corporate partners here in Macon-Bibb County,” Mayor Robert Reichert said. “They will be a great addition to our entire region, especially with their policy of putting families first and history of giving back to the communities where they’re located.
“We want to thank you for your confidence in Macon-Bibb County. ... We will make you proud that you selected us.”
Among the company’s products are Scotties, Royale and Majesta paper products, which include facial and bathroom tissue, paper towels and napkins. (For a closer look, go to: https://www.irvingconsumerproducts.com/brands.html)
J.D. Irving Ltd. was founded in 1882. It has operations in Canada and the United States and employs about about 15,000 people.
During the secret recruitment and negotiations, Irving Consumer Products was known as Project Bengal.
“We welcome Irving Consumer Products to Georgia and appreciate the company’s significant investment here,” Deal said. ... “The jobs created at this facility will provide meaningful opportunities in the Macon community and allow the company to utilize our robust logistics infrastructure to reach its customer base more efficiently. Ultimately, Georgia’s ongoing success is the result of partnerships like these, and Irving Consumer Products is a welcome addition to our winning team.”
Efforts must continue to create a qualified workforce in local schools and colleges, because “if we don’t ... we won’t get companies like this,” he said.