They may smell, but paper mills bring a lot more to a town than odor, an odor that, while pungent, is not harmful to the health of passersby.
“Odor is a natural byproduct of the pulping process and is not harmful to health or the environment,” said Adam Miklos, mill manager for New Bern Mill.
The familiar odor has hung in the humid air of eastern North Carolina since 1777, when John Hulgan built the state’s first in Orange County.
“Paper production as it exists today demands two things in great quantity: wood and water. Both of these are historically abundant in the eastern part of the state,” said Joseph Beatty, research supervisor for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “…Forest products have been a significant source of jobs in North Carolina since colonial times.”
In the years leading up to the Civil War, the paper industry brought $145,000 into North Carolina annually. In the middle of the 1900s, paper production was pumping $26 million into North Carolina. By the turn of the century, the state’s paper mill industry was worth $2 billion and employed 21,000.
Today, North Carolina’s forest sector makes up 2 percent of the state’s total economic output, that’s $21.6 billion and 73,600 employees.
There are four remaining paper mills in eastern North Carolina, including New Bern’s International Paper, contributing to the region’s economy through measures both quantifiable and not.
International Paper has a long history in New Bern of providing jobs and economic investment
International Paper, founded in 1898, acquired the New Bern Mill in 2016 and has since invested $500,000 in both monetary and in-kind donations into Craven County and its neighboring counties. It also provides jobs for 330 employees, many of which are from New Bern.
In 2021 alone, International Paper plans to invest $150,000 more and maintain its dedication to local non-profits and small local businesses.
International Paper views its three main categories of products as ways to serve the communities they are based in.
“International Paper provides jobs at the mill site and we work closely with other local companies and businesses when sourcing out timber or providing materials for other companies,” Miklos said.
The company also uses local Craven County contractors and suppliers as much as possible. Through its nine facilities in North Carolina, International Paper has invested $55 million in minority and women business suppliers and $136 million for small and medium-sized suppliers.
Their packaging products help facilitate safe commerce worldwide, their pulp for hygiene products keeps consumers healthy and their paper promotes education.
One of the ways that International Paper invests in the community is through donating its corrugated boxes to local food banks for them to pack and distribute goods. During the pandemic, International Paper donated 10,000 boxes to hunger relief organizations just in Craven County.
The mill awards grants to non-profits and government organizations that fall under its signature causes, including education, hunger, health and wellness and disaster relief.
In partnership with United Way, International Paper packs feminine hygiene kits and distributes them to local schools to fight period poverty.
The kits include their pulp-made products as well as products from some of their customers and include everything necessary to endure a healthy period.
“Period poverty affects more than 40 million women and girls worldwide, meaning disadvantaged women and girls in our community and around the world that lack access to sanitary products, feminine hygiene education….,” Miklos said.
Instead of missing a week of school, losing out on education, International Paper’s efforts allow local girls to have access to necessary materials.
In the coming year, International Paper plans to continue working towards their Vision 2030 plan, which includes further forest stewardship and sustainability, both locally and worldwide.
“From great educational opportunities to strong business support and the appeal of a coastal lifestyle and scenic environment, Craven County and Eastern North Carolina, are wonderful places to live, work and operate a business,” Miklos said.