SALTILLO – Bigger isn’t always better, but in the case of paper and packaging provider WestRock, installing a 132-inch corrugator – the largest in the Western Hemisphere – fits the bill.

Company officials announced on Wednesday that the company’s Saltillo location will have the equipment installed by August. WestRock declined to put a value on the cost of the project, but the Mississippi Development Authority will give WestRock $320,000 for building improvements and $50,000 for worker training. Local officials will grant property tax breaks worth an estimated $2.6 million.

MDA spokeswoman Tammy Craft said jobs qualify for incentives rebating some worker income taxes to the company. That requires WestRock pay at least $40,500 annually. WestRock could get $405,000 over 10 years.

With the installation of the new German-built BHS Corrugated machine, the company will replace an 87-inch machine. That will allow WestRock to expand its capacity and “increase the plant’s competitiveness and improve product quality,” according to the company.

WestRock also will add up to 25 workers, joining the 169 now employed in Saltillo.

Rick Parris, senior vice president of WestRock Central Region Corrugated Packaging, said the new corrugator allows the plant to be more efficient and flexible. The cardboard boxes the company makes are used by a range of companies, including lawn equipment makers, appliance makers and furniture manufacturers.

“We’re proud of our plant, and I’m especially proud of the quality of our products and our 169 employees that come in here and work hard every single day,” Parris said, giving a nod to the contingent of workers who participated in the announcement. “You guys deserve every bit of this. You earned this investment we’re putting in here.”

Parris said the company can pursue more and larger customers once the new equipment is in place.

WestRock, a $16 billion company, employs 45,000 in 300 plants across the world. The company has been in Saltillo since 1971.

The Saltillo plant is the first WestRock plant in North America to install the BHS Corrugated.

“WestRock is a proud member of the Lee County community, and we appreciate Gov. Phil Bryant’s and the Mississippi Development Authority’s support of our employees and operations,” said Jeff Chalovich, president of WestRock’s corrugated packaging business. “We look forward to continuing to provide high quality products and services from our operations in Mississippi.”

— Dennis Seid / Daily Journal