Cascades’ Barnwell facility was deemed an ‘underperforming plant’ and will begin closing in July 2023.
The Canadian-based tissue paper manufacturing company announced on April 25 it will “progressively close its underperforming plants.” Both the Barnwell location on Midfield Road and a plant in Scappoose, Oregon are on the list. A virgin paper tissue machine will be closed at the St. Helens, Oregon plant as well.
The Barnwell location– a 415,000-square-foot paper mill and converting plant– was fully staffed with 150 employees as of March.
A total of 300 employees across both facilities are impacted by this closure costing a total of $20-$25 million, including severance.
"Today's announcement lays the groundwork for a simplified and sustainable production model that will better meet both our customers' and Cascades' long-term growth aspirations," said President and Chief Operating Officer Jean-David Tardif.
These closures come with the repositioning of Cascades’ structure to “enhance the performance of the business,” according to a press release. This includes simplifying and concentrating operations at existing sites to reduce cost, create synergy, and improve the company’s financial, operational, and environmental performance.
"With fewer sites, better resource allocation, and a strong business strategy, we believe this decision will position Cascades to create more value for its shareholders and customers. I'm convinced that the steps taken today will allow us to achieve our objectives for improving Tissue Group's performance,” said Cascades President and CEO Mario Plourde.
Cascades was founded in 1964 and is the industry leader in Canada and the fourth largest tissue paper manufacturer in North America. In 2019, Cascades purchased the Barnwell facility and acquired the assets of Orchids Paper Products Co. for $207 million after the company went bankrupt. Orchids constructed and opened the Barnwell facility at the Barnwell County Airport Industrial Park in 2016 to produce private-label tissue products.
“These are private industries, they do come and go sometimes. We’ve seen it before in the past, but I do hate to see it with such a fairly new industry that has just recently come to the county,” said Tommy Boyleston, director of the Barnwell County Economic Development Commission (EDC).
Although the plant is closing, economic development groups in Barnwell County hope the recent industry growth in the region will not leave former Cascades employees without work for long.
“The economy is good, and there are many jobs open in the area. A lot of folks are hiring right now, so hopefully most of those people can be placed,” said President and CEO of SouthernCarolina Alliance (SCA), Danny Black.
Boyleston was surprised by the announcement, but feels similarly about the economic state of the region and future employment opportunities for Cascades employees.
“We have opportunities in all the other industries around here to absorb these people,” said Boyleston. “There is a very strong need for people in other industries around the country and around the area.”
TIVA Building Products in Blackville, Koch & Co. in Barnwell, and Monmouth Rubber & Plastic Corp. in Williston have all announced plans to establish across the county in the last year bringing nearly 300 new jobs.
"This was not an easy decision to make, but it's the right one for the company's future. I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our employees impacted by this decision, and I hope that many of them will be able to stay with the company,” said Tardif.
Some employees will be relocated across the state to other Cascades businesses. Employees who are not relocated will receive severance and support in their search for employment.
Although Cascades will be shutting down operations, Black and Boyleston are optimistic about the future of the facility.
“We have about four projects that are looking at Barnwell County and the area,” said Black, who notes SCA is informed of new projects looking at establishing in the county on “a daily basis.”