TO CLOSE

SWEETWATER – Location, location, location.

This factor played an important role in Georgia-Pacific’s decision to build a second plasterboard production plant here at a cost of $ 300 million. The new factory sits across from the company’s wall panel installation at Interstate 20 and FM 1856.

Georgia-Pacific opened its first factory in 1957.

“At Sweetwater, we will be able to keep logistics costs low and we will have access to more trucks to deliver our products. This, along with the company’s current gypsum facility near Sweetwater, a talented workforce and local natural resources, makes Nolan County an ideal location to expand our operations, ”said Brent Paugh, President of Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, in a press release.

The value of Sweetwater’s location also extended beyond logistics, said Ken Becker, executive director of Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development.

When talks on the project began in April 2019, city and county officials promoted Georgia-Pacific’s long-standing presence as meaning it had enjoyed a strong relationship with the community, Becker said. .

“We wanted to establish from the start that you already have a lot of good experiences here, so why not expand it,” Becker said of the community leaders’ message to the company.

The company also received economic incentives from local entities to build the plant, Becker said.

The company credits the project “with the support of the state of Texas, including state, county and local leaders,” said Yana Ogletree, public affairs manager for Georgia-Pacific.

Details of the new plant

Weeks before an official groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, earthworks were underway on the second 700,000-square-foot plant on approximately 1,000 acres along Interstate 20 east of the city.

At the peak of construction, 400 workers will be on site, according to a press release from Gray, who provides design-build services for the project.

The new state-of-the-art facility will employ around 120 people when it goes live in late 2022, Ogletree said.

Georgia-Pacific’s first plant has undergone approximately $ 6 million in technology upgrades over the past year and will continue to operate when the new plant opens.

The two plants combined will be able to supply more than one billion square feet of gypsum products per year, according to a press release from Georgia-Pacific.

The first plant currently employs around 115 people.

When the two factories are operational, the company will be Nolan County’s third-largest private employer, Becker said.

The construction project is possibly the second largest in the county in 10 years, Becker said. The largest was a $ 350 million investment in the modernization and expansion of the Buzzi Unicem USA cement plant near Mary Neal, he said.

Sweeten the deal

Georgia-Pacific is based in Atlanta and operates more than 150 factories across the country. In addition to providing building products, Georgia-Pacific is also known for brands such as Quilted Northern bathroom tissue and Brawny paper towels.

With the new plant, Georgia-Pacific will have 12 facilities in Texas that will produce a mix of products including lumber, plywood and chemicals, Ogletree said.

Fletcher, Oklahoma, where Georgia-Pacific operates, was also considered for the new plant, Becker said.

To further influence Sweetwater’s selection, the company benefited from several economic incentives, Becker said.

The county and hospital district have offered tax breaks, and the Sweetwater Independent School District Board signed a Chapter 313 agreement with the company to temporarily limit the assessed value of the plant, Becker said. The name of the agreement comes from the Texas Tax Code.

SEED is also building a water line that runs from the city to the two Georgia-Pacific plants, Becker said.

“In doing so, they signed a 10-year agreement to buy all of their water from the town of Sweetwater,” Becker said.

Georgia-Pacific is also investing $ 200,000 in Sweetwater ISD’s CTE vocational and technical training program, she announced Tuesday.

The funds will allow educators at Sweetwater to rethink existing program structures and learning spaces, starting with preschool. Secondary school teachers will be trained to teach and certify students according to the general standards of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, according to a press release.

The school has approximately 265 students in its CTE program, and OSHA certification will be incorporated into its animal science, applied agricultural engineering, food science and technology, and law enforcement streams.

domino effect

With the factory underway and the promise of 120 additional jobs, the project has had a ripple effect throughout the community.

“What he did kind of gave us a sense of the importance of housing and that aspect of quality of life,” Becker said.

When asked if Sweetwater is getting a new residential development, Becker said “we’re currently working on a few things like this that we can’t say much about yet.… This expansion is part of the reason it’s doing this. occurs.”

Laura Gutschke is a general assignment journalist and food columnist and manages online content for The Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

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