Last year, we were happy to join the City of Kalamazoo and members of the community as a steering committee was formed to develop a community benefits agreement (CBA). Although our participation in any project is voluntary, we view the CBA as a positive collaboration between the community and Graphic Packaging.
Since then, Graphic Packaging has met with the committee three times and will meet again soon as we continue to discuss possible future programs and projects that would benefit the city and the communities, where our operations are located.
We are pleased to report that these early discussions have been productive. Kalamazoo community leaders have suggested several creative ideas related to youth activities, workforce development and other proposals. The steering team is defining the potential proposals and prioritizing the projects. If adopted, this would be Kalamazoo’s first community benefits agreement.
In most cases, a CBA is a contract between a developer and community-based organization representing residents’ interests. In our case, we are a manufacturer, not a real estate developer, and the idea for the CBA was suggested while the city was considering a tax abatement for our $600 million expansion project. With that context in mind, we are working with the committee to identify programs or community activities that will make the most impact in a short period of time.
As part of this process, Graphic Packaging developed an overview for the committee that outlines programs that we are working on or have completed that have had a positive impact on the community. These include, implementing programs to significantly mitigate the potential to create nuisance odors, purchasing and remediating several properties near our facility, and workforce recruiting and development programs. This overview was developed to provide a baseline, or starting point, for our discussion with the committee. Since many committee members said they found the overview helpful, we thought it would also be helpful to share it with the community. The full overview can be viewed here.
Graphic Packaging plans to continue to engage with the city’s steering committee and is hopeful that a set of recommendations can be provided to the Kalamazoo City Commissioners in April.