Company to expand its cardboard-box manufacturing, perhaps in Hamilton

Saica Group President Ramón Alejandro told the Journal-News his company plans an aggressive $800 million expansion in the United States over the next five years years, with plans to add other manufacturing plants and a paper mill in the Midwest. Pictured is construction work on the Sacia plant in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Caption
Saica Group President Ramón Alejandro told the Journal-News his company plans an aggressive $800 million expansion in the United States over the next five years years, with plans to add other manufacturing plants and a paper mill in the Midwest. Pictured is construction work on the Sacia plant in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Could Hamilton once again have a paper mill?

It’s possible that Hamilton, or some other area in southwest Ohio, could be the site of a new paper mill operated by Saica Group, the Spain-based company that’s building a cardboard-box-manufacturing factory in Hamilton.

Saica Group President Ramón Alejandro told the Journal-News his company plans an aggressive $800 million expansion in the United States over the next five years, with plans to add other manufacturing plants and a paper mill in the Midwest. The expansion may include company acquisitions or new plant construction.

Overall, the company plans to spend $2.8 billion on expansions globally through 2030, Alejandro said.

At the moment, because Hamilton is the only place in the country with a Saica facility, it is serving as the national headquarters. Hamilton may have an advantage over other locations because when Saica agreed to build its $72 million, 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, it asked Hamilton officials to reserve space for possible future expansion, and the city agreed.

But City Manager Joshua Smith was taken by surprised at the idea of Saica creating a paper mill in Hamilton or elsewhere in the country. He said the company “has been an incredible addition to the city,” not only because they are building a state-of-the-art packaging facility, but also, “their leadership has become ingrained into our community.”

“While they have not had any conversations with the City of Hamilton about current expansion plans, we of course would pursue any desire they had for additional facilities,” Smith said. “We love them being in Hamilton, and will be hyper-competitive in proactively keeping any expansions in Hamilton.”

City leaders and residents have lamented the loss of paper mills such as those operated by Champion Paper and Beckett Paper. Smith in October was pleased to tell a crowd at his State of the City address that with Saica, the city was in a way returning to its paper-making past.

A Saica paper mill likely would be different from those that had been in Hamilton because the company deals with 100-percent recycled paper. Among candidates for a paper mill and box-manufacturing plants are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky.

Fast-growing Saica (pronounced SAY-ka) calls itself “one of the largest and most advanced European players in the development and production of recycled paper for corrugated packaging.”

Boxes created by Saica. PROVIDED
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Boxes created by Saica. PROVIDED

The company has more than 10,000 employees in Europe. Its Hamilton building will include 17,400 square feet of office space. Saica has promised to create 64 jobs here. It is already hiring for some positions. When the plant is fully operational, it should employ 120 people.

The company has 10 paper mills in Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

Alejandro is president of the third-generation, privately-held family-owned company that was founded in 1943. He said the area’s proximity to large population centers in the eastern United States, including Chicago, the Northeast and Atlanta, were a key factor in Saica’s choice of Hamilton. Because company officials would live here, Saica also was looking for someplace with good quality of life, he said.

He said in an interview from Zaragoza, Spain, that where Saica would locate a paper mill would depend on locations of at least three or four box-manufacturing facilities elsewhere.

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“We’d have to have a critical mass in order to justify a paper mill,” he said. “This can be in greenfields, or it can be a joint-venture, or it can be a pre-existing plant.” Also: “I think our headquarters would depend on where we have the rest of our plants in the United States.”

He said Hamilton has a head-start in landing the company’s national headquarters “because our first corrugated plant is going to be there, so I think that’s a point for the start.”

The company’s $800 million expansion plan in the United States should give it four more manufacturing plants and a paper mill, Alejandro said. He added that one factor in siting a paper mill will be the availability of recycled paper.

In Ohio and surrounding states have lots of people, he noted, “and usually, you get the raw material when there’s a high level of population.”

“We want our customers to be sure they are having an efficient packaging, and a green packaging.”

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City Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson said, “We had always looked at Saica as being a future opportunity for expansion, so when they’re ready to go, we’ll be ready to go.”

Not only is there property immediately adjacent to Saica’s under-construction building, “but we also just acquired 87 acres, just right across the road,” Gunderson added.

Jacob Hesseling of REDI Cincinnati, the regional economic-development-attraction organization that helped attract Saica to Hamilton, said he was unable to comment on whether there are efforts to have the company expand in the area because of confidentiality agreements the organization signs with companies. Such an agreement was signed before the company decided to locate here.

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A rendering of what the Saica Group facility is to look like. PROVIDED
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A rendering of what the Saica Group facility is to look like. PROVIDED

Credit: PROVIDED

Credit: PROVIDED