By Susan Hardee Steger
November 12, 2018
WestRock, the first paper mill to be built in Fernandina (1938), celebrated its 80th anniversary with 468 employees on October 18-19. During the two day event, four mill shifts were served “recognition meals” in honor of the occasion.
A Brief History
In January 1936, the City of Fernandina hired O.H. Anderson to bring industry to town. Anderson, who happens to be the great-grandfather of Wes White, an attorney who practices in northeast Florida, was paid $300 a month to be the city clerk, auditor, and city manager. Anderson was sent to Fernandina by Seaboard Air Line Rail and according to city minutes, he was convinced “there is no better place to bring a pulp mill or other industries,” and two pulp mill businesses agreed.
In 1938 Container Corporation (Kraft Paper) dedicated its mill, shortly after the dedication the Rayonier mill was completed .
Anderson’s wife, Alberta Avant Anderson, captured the town’s excitement over news that Container Corporation of America was coming and recorded in her diary on December 14, 1936:
“This morning at 10 a.m. the announcement for the 7 million dollar pulp mill came out and the town went wild.”
Fernandina’s WestRock mill uses various types of fuel based on pricing and availability. Fuel types range from coal, bark, natural gas, and oil. The plant is 99% self-sufficient on electricity, and utilizes 60% of its energy from renewable sources. As one of the largest WestRock linerboard mills, the Fernandina has the most productive liner machine in the WestRock system. 40% of its products are exported, much of it being shipped through the Port of Fernandina.
In addition to celebrating an 80 year anniversary, WestRock celebrated the work anniversary of Robert Hinson who has worked at the mill for 48 years. Figures presented for years of service show total years of employment for 155 employees range from 20-29 years, 46 employees for 30-39 years, and for 40 plus years of service were reached by 24 individuals.