Company thanks Irma responders after groundbreaking for huge plant

Irving throws a BBQ for first responders

Irving Consumer Products breaks ground for plant, holds barbeque lunch for first responders as thanks for Irma efforts.
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Irving Consumer Products breaks ground for plant, holds barbeque lunch for first responders as thanks for Irma efforts.

Fans were blowing and a tent was set up to counter the sweltering heat Thursday at the future site of a $400 million manufacturing plant in south Bibb County.

It was a stark difference from about nine months ago, when gas heaters were needed as Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority leaders courted Irving Consumer Products executives about building a state-of-the-art facility here.

The fruits of that labor yielded an announcement in August that the company would indeed open the plant in Sofkee Industrial Park. And on Thursday, a groundbreaking for the new facility brought out members of the Industrial Authority, the Macon-Bibb County Commission, the Macon Water Authority, state legislators and a contingent of Irving employees.

Officials with the neighboring Kumho Tire plant also were in attendance.

It was a team effort that included many partners across Macon-Bibb and the state who helped bring Irving to the county, Industrial Authority Chairman Robby Fountain said.

“Some people don’t know in the economic world how much it takes to put this together,” he said.

Irving Consumer Products CEO Robert Irving and Macon officials turn dirt to celebrate a $400 million investment in a south Bibb hay field.

Construction will start soon on the 700,000-square-foot plant, where soft bath tissue and paper towels will be made. The Canada-based company expects to have about 200 employees working at the facility when it opens in 2019.

“We believe it’s important that the positive economic impact of this project be felt here within Macon-Bibb and the state of Georgia,” Irving co-CEO Robert Irving said. “We are committed to working with local suppliers throughout this project. The construction of the new plant is estimated to provide 1 million person hours of work, and at the height of construction over 540 people will be working on the site.”

Irving also said the company doesn’t just want to provide good-paying jobs in Macon. It’s also important for the company to be involved in other aspects of the community.

And there was a chance to do so shortly after Thursday’s ceremony as the company held a barbecue at Rosa Parks Square to thank those involved with Tropical Storm Irma disaster relief. The company also donated a total of $30,000 to the local chapters of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

“In the aftermath, we were struck by the efforts of first responders, community organizations and volunteers who responded to those without power, those who suffered loss and those who had power go out,” Irving said. “As an organization, we are very thankful for all first responders who worked tirelessly to help those in need during Tropical Storm Irma.”

Mayor Robert Reichert said Thursday that he was impressed when speaking with Irving about the company’s dedication to treating its employees well and making a difference in communities.

J.D. Irving Ltd., founded in 1882, employs about 15,000 people in Canada and the United States.

“We look forward to having them as a corporate citizen of Macon-Bibb County for the next 100 years, and we’re sure it’s going to be a mutually beneficial relationship,” Reichert said.

Irving Consumer Products held a barbecue Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, for first responders for their efforts during and after Tropical Storm Irma. Irving also held a groundbreaking Thursday for a $400 million Macon-Bibb County manufacturing plant.

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph