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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

WestRock to close Lexington plant, lay off 153

Packaging company WestRock plans to close its Lexington plant and lay off 153 workers later this year, according to a filing with the N.C. Department of Commerce.

The cuts will begin on March 18, according to the filing.

None of the workers belong to a union, and the company expects the closing to be permanent. The affected jobs include 40 feeder catchers, 12 offset press operators, nine die cut operators and six quality assurance technicians.

“Production will be moved to other locations within the WestRock network,” says Robby Johnson, a company spokesman.

Last year, WestRock broke ground on a 285,000-square-foot expansion at its consumer packaging facility in Claremont, North Carolina. The $47 million investment was bolstered by a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina Fund and was expected to create 50 new jobs by the end of of 2023. Johnson says that expansion is complete and is operational.

In March 2023, the company’s Roanoke Rapids plant was fined $29,000 by the N.C. Department of Labor for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina after four workers were hurt in August 2022. It was the first U.S. kraft paper pulp mill in 1909.

The company has been consolidating operations around the United States in the past year. In August, WestRock announced plans to close a paper mill in Tacoma, Wash., resulting in 400 layoffs. It also closed two plants in Minnesota and a paper mill in North Charleston, S.C., prompting 500 layoffs.

In September, Ireland’s Smurfit Kappa announced a deal to acquire U.S. rival WestRock for $11 billion to create the world’s biggest paper and packaging company.

Atlanta-based WestRock has about 58,000 employees around the world and about 300 production facilities.

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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