Statewide: Western region, September 2014

 In 2014-09

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Avoiding paper cuts

The owner of the Canton paper mill, a bulwark of western North Carolina’s economy for more than a century, wants state aid. New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart, who bought the mill in 2006 for $500 million and renamed it Evergreen Packaging, is seeking $12 million over six years to help pay for modernized boilers that burn more natural gas and reduce coal use to meet new federal rules on emissions. Support is widespread because political leaders want the plant, which provides more than 1,000 jobs with average annual compensation of more than $78,000, to stay open. A bill enabling incentives got tied up in the legislative meat-grinder in mid-August, but the money will be approved either this fall or in next year’s session, says state Sen. Jim Davis, a Republican from Franklin. Champion Fibre and its successor entities ran the mill for decades until selling it for $200 million to an investor group, which included employees, in 1999 (cover story, December 2005). Upgrading boilers will cost up to $44 million, which would have no adverse impact on its finances, according to Evergreen’s 2013 annual report. The incentives don’t faze Davis. “We’re afraid [Hart’s] going to say, ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and just shut it down,” he says. Hart, who assembled a packaging empire the past decade, may sell as much as $7.9 billion of assets, according to a July government filing. Talk around Canton is that Koch Industries’ Georgia Pacific might buy the plant, former Mayor Pat Smathers says. Evergreen officials didn’t return telephone calls. Georgia-Pacific had no comment.

UPDATE: Canton paper mill wins incentives from state

Briefs

CLYDE — Brentwood, Tenn.-based Duke LifePoint Healthcare acquired MedWest Haywood for about $26 million and will invest $36 million over eight years in the 169-bed medical center and its clinics. In a separate deal, the health-care network paid about $25 million for Sylva-based Westcare Health and will invest $43 million over eight years in the 86-bed Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, 48-bed Swain County Hospital in Bryson City and affiliated clinics. Duke LifePoint is a joint venture of Durham-based Duke University Health System and Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Hospitals.

ASHEVILLE — Mary Grant will become chancellor of UNC Asheville Jan. 5. She has been president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Mass., since 2002. Grant will replace Anne Ponder, who retired July 31 after nine years in the post.

CANDLERWicked Weed Brewing will invest $5 million to build a new 40,000-square-foot brewery and add 82 jobs over three years. Production is expected to begin by fall 2015. The Asheville-based beer-maker now employs about 150.

ASHEVILLEMountain BizWorks named Patrick Fitzsimmons executive director July 21. He was regional executive director of the American Red Cross from 2004 to 2013 and replaces Shaw Canale, who resigned in November. The nonprofit provides loans to small businesses in western North Carolina.

ASHEVILLE — Moogfest, a music and technology festival organized by local synthesizer-maker Moog Music, will skip a year and return in 2016 (NCtrend, June). This year’s event, held in April, lost $1.5 million.

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