Company Plans $155M Pulp Factory In Savannah, Hiring 117

ATLANTA (AP) — A business that looks to turn used cardboard boxes and paper into pulp for export said Friday that it plans a $155 million complex near Savannah, hiring at least 117 people.

Celadon Development Corp. said it has already opened a processing facility in coastal Georgia and plans to build a factory that will produce 450,000 tons of pulp per year. A second phase doubling production to 900,000 tons per year could come later, depending on demand, CEO Tim Zosel told The Associated Press.

The company also says its North American headquarters will be in Savannah.

Zosel said the company would break ground on its first pulp line early next year and complete it by 2023. The pulp line will use water, but no chemicals, to make new pulp, Zosel said.

Paper mills have long used old boxes and paper as raw material for new paper, instead of pulp from freshly cut trees. Cardboard boxes are made from the same brown paper as paper grocery bags. Celadon CEO Tim Zosel said his company's advantage is that it doesn't grind up old paper, which can damage wood fibers, but uses another proprietary technology.

There's been a glut of used paper in the United States since 2018, when China stopped accepting bales of used cardboard from abroad, saying there was too much trash and food waste mixed in. The number of cardboard boxes is also rising with increasing online retailing. Celadon aims to recycle that waste here, with Zosel saying the company has signed agreements to sell clean pulp to overseas papermakers. Zosel said Celadon can also accept dirtier paper than competitors.

Earlier this year, the company announced plans for a $160 million plant in Tampa, Florida. Zosel said Celadon plans additional plants, but hasn’t yet announced any.

Zosel said the Savannah location is well-suited because containers now trucked back empty to the port can instead be filled with paper for recycling, allowing Celadon to save on transportation costs.

Local officials are donating land for the Georgia plant, Zosel said. Celadon will occupy the last parcel of a former megasite near the intersection of Interstates 95 and 16 in Pooler. State and local leaders carved up the large site for multiple users after they couldn’t attract one large industry to the location.

Celadon could claim various tax breaks, including an income tax credit allowing it to annually deduct $3,500 per job from state income taxes, up to $2 million over five years, as long as workers make at least $28,000 per year. The company could get a boost on that jobs tax credit for heavy use of the port. Celadon projects it would export 87,000 container units through the Port of Savannah each year if it builds both phases.

Celadon is a joint venture between Kamine Development Corp. Sustainable Infrastructure and Nicollet Industries. Nicollet is a Minneapolis-based investment company that buys stakes in industrial firms, while Kamine Development is a holding company for New Jersey entrepreneur Hal Kamine.