As a major employer in Kalamazoo, we at Graphic Packaging recognize our duty to partner with the community when it comes being a good neighbor and we know it is more important now than ever as we work towards the completion of an expansion project.
In Kalamazoo, we are currently in the midst of a $600 million project to build a new mill that will improve the competitiveness of our local operations and help to ensure job security for employees at our Kalamazoo operations for years to come.
When the project is complete, we will employ nearly 625 production workers at our mill and carton assembly operations in Kalamazoo. We take pride in providing well-paying jobs with good benefits. On average, our employees earn more than $60,000 annually (with a generous benefits package), which is well above the median household income of $41,700, according to U.S. Government data. About 20% of our mill workers are Black, reflecting the city of Kalamazoo’s demographics.
We also, however, recognize our plant is near a residential community and that part of being a good neighbor is to minimize our impact on our neighbors and the environment. That is why we have been a part of the community’s Odor Task Force for more than two years and committed to providing the City of Kalamazoo with regular updates related to our odor mitigation efforts on a quarterly basis as part of the tax abatements awarded to our company in September. It’s also why, among other actions, we are investing $4 million in new water processing technology to help minimize odors from our mill. That commitment to keeping the community updated is also why we created this website.
Our project in Kalamazoo will establish Graphic Packaging as a leader in recycling in North America and can serve as an example of how businesses and residents can work together. Based on our initial estimates, our new, world-class coated recycled paperboard (CRB) machine will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20%, reduce water usage by 300 million gallons annually and reduce purchased energy by 18% across our CRB manufacturing platform in North America.
Graphic Packaging has been actively involved in the community through education and local non-profits for many years. Here are some of our community involvement activities.
- Every year since 2008, we have engaged local elementary schools in our TICCIT (Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees) outreach program which teaches kids how trees are used to make paper which is then recycled to make paper-based cartons. Last year alone we supplied almost 3,000 Kalamazoo-area students with saplings to plant.
- Graphic Packaging currently participates in “Going Pro in Michigan,” which is a campaign designed to elevate the perception of professional trades and to showcase opportunities in a variety of rewarding careers.
- On April 14, 2020, Graphic Packaging made a $10,000 donation to Loaves & Fishes food pantry on Portage Avenue in Kalamazoo to address increased needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was in addition to $5,000 donations we made to food banks in both White Pigeon and Battle Creek.
- Graphic Packaging participates in local recruitment days and enjoys a friendly relationship with WMU with cooperative educational donation of equipment and staff time.
- Over the past five years, we’ve contributed $100,000 to the paper foundation at Western Michigan University. We attend career events there at least twice per year and host a number of interns/co-ops from their paper school. We also donate materials and used mill equipment to the paper pilot plant for use in their paper engineering program.
At Graphic Packaging, are also well aware of the heightened attention on systemic racism across America over the past year as well as the increased attention in recent years to environment, sustainability and corporate governance issues (ESG). We understand the necessity of ensuring equal opportunity, safety, and well-being for all of our neighbors, and we believe there is absolutely no place for racism of any kind in our company, our communities, or our society. While we have always had a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, we also outlined our plans to amplify and accelerate progress in our Vision 2025 program, which you can read here and see here.
We will continue to listen and work with the community as we continue to strive to become a better neighbor.