News & Media

Manufacturing Day at Fort Mill-based Domtar Corp., and the company has invited guests

By Ken Elkins
Senior Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal

Drake Roach, the plant manager at Domtar’s Rock Hill paper converting facility, has a funny version of the “Just say no …” phrase.

“Just say no to the electronic version,” he says. Roach is talking about those prompts you get from the credit card companies, utility companies and others encouraging customers to opt out of receiving printed statements mailed to them.

“You’re impacting the plant in Rock Hill” when you say “yes” to electronic versions, Roach told a group of about 30 people during a plant tour Tuesday.

It’s Manufacturing Day at Fort Mill-based Domtar Corp., and the company has invited guests — including high school students — to the Rock Hill paper converting center.

Roach is an advocate for the printed statement because that business means 55 jobs for the Rock Hill economy. The center is one of a declining number of plants that convert giant rolls of paper to computer paper, perforated forms and even paper for those monthly bills and statements.

“We process the paper into a usable form that might go to the insurance industry, airlines or even colleges,” Roach says.

The jobs at the facility pay pretty good, too. Most employees start at $15 an hour. A machine operator at the Domtar (NYSE: UFS) center earns $25 an hour. Maintenance employees are paid about $30 an hour.

Roach is talking to the dozen or so students from York Comprehensive and Fort Mill high schools, when he talks about salaries. Manufacturers in York County and around the country are having difficulties attracting young people to production jobs.

Rhonda Huskins, regional vice president of the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership, says students like those on the tour are production companies’ future employees, if they can convince the young people that manufacturing provides rewarding jobs.

“We’re trying to get kids in high school excited about manufacturing,” she says.

Later in the tour, Jan Martin of Domtar led the young folks and other visitors over to a selfie station when they could pose with the Domtar logo and rolls of paper in the background.

The Domtar converting center in Rock Hill is the closest plant to the Fort Mill headquarters. The company employs 10,000 across its footprint, which contains 13 paper mills and 10 converting center sites. Domtar has about 2,000 employees in the Carolinas, including about 600 at its corporate campus in Kingsley Park off Interstate 77.

The 80,000-square-foot Rock Hill plant can make up to 210 tons of paper products a day but Roach says it’s at about 85% capacity this month with three shifts working five days a week.

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We’re trying to get kids in high school excited about manufacturing.

Rhonda Huskins Regional Vice President, S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership