Company executives and politicians were on hand to open the expansion of International Paper’s Kenton facility Monday morning, but it was the 650 employees who were in the spotlight. The company announced 19 months ago it would double the size of its Kenton facility and create 125-plus jobs for the Kenton area. Monday’s ceremony celebrated that accomplishment.
Company officials cut the ribbon on the new 250,000 square-foot addition which represents a $70 million investment in the community. International Paper President and CEO Mark Sutton told the crowd in the new meeting room at the plant the disposable cup industry is expanding due to a change in the way Americans live. Grabbing a cup of coffee for the drive to work or getting a cold drink with a fast meal has become part of the U.S. culture, he said. “This product helps that business model,” said Sutton.
IP produces fiber-based hot and cold cups, food buckets, containers, plates and lids for several fast-food restaurant companies. The increase in demand brought the IP executives to realize they needed to expand their production line and in searching for a location for that expansion, Kenton made its way to the top of the list, the company president said. It was the strong support and the “can-do” attitude that got the attention of the executives, said Sutton, but it was the success of the workers in the Kenton plant that sealed the deal. The workers in Kenton had already been the first IP plant to produce many of the items which had brought success to the company.
“You made our decision for us,” said Sutton. Any company can provide equipment to help make a project successful, he continued, but it takes quality people manning that equipment to make the difference in the product.
“To make this all work takes all of you,” he told the employees who filled most of the seats at the meeting.
Making the Kenton expansion a reality was made possible through the partnerships between the company and the county, city and state developers, said Sutton.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was one of several political leaders who addressed the employees of International Paper at the opening of the expansion of the Kenton facility. The dedication of the workers was recognized as the main reason the company chose Kenton for the investment of $70 million in the plant. “I know Ohio workers can compete with anyone in the world,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. He vowed to continue to fight on the floor of the Senate for fair trade agreements to keep American competing on a level playing field.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta said the Kenton expansion was the result of everyone working together, but would not have been possible if not for the workers at IP and their reputation for quality. “The number one reason (the plant is here) is you,” he told the workers. “The reason people want to put businesses here is the work ethic of our people. This wouldn’t have happened today without you.”He noted the location of the plant will not only benefit Kenton and Hardin County, but neighboring counties who will send workers to the renovated facility.
International Paper is relying on the history of the Kenton workers to prove their investment was a wise decision, said Sutton.“We are counting on that winning spirit in Kenton to make this a success,” he told the workers.