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Interstate Paper, Liberty County acknowledge beneficial relationship
Leadership Liberty
Leadership Liberty members - photo by Photo provided / Coastal Courier
When three privately owned corrugating manufacturers from the northeast began looking for a captive supply of linerboard back in the mid-1960s, a group of civic leaders showed them exactly what they needed in Liberty County, and Interstate Paper was born. Since then, Liberty County and Interstate Paper in Riceboro have shared a mutually beneficial relationship.
Today, Interstate Paper is an affiliate of Interstate Resources located in Rosslyn, Va. Interstate Resources is an affiliate of the parent company Indevco, located in Lebanon.   
Interstate Paper produces 900 tons per day of linerboard and has an annual economic impact of $400 million. They base their success on the strong relationship they have forged with the community.
"The community values our mill being here," said Gene Millard, vice president and general manager of Interstate Paper.  "We employ 230 people.  Our jobs are some of the highest paying in the area. The people in this community know they can rely on us, and we certainly rely on them."
Over the years, Interstate Paper has found Liberty County to possess a qualified and available workforce. Interstate Paper draws not only from the traditional labor force, but they also have found quality hires in soldiers who exit Fort Stewart.  
The mill prides itself in having little employee turnover and being a place where dedicated employees not only find jobs, but are able to establish careers, which was the case for Liberty County Commission Chairman and Liberty County Development Authority Vice Chairman John McIver.
McIver, who retired as a crew leader in the production department from Interstate Paper last July after working there 39 years, began working at the mill as a third helper when it opened in 1968.
"Interstate provided me with a good paying job and benefits, which allowed me to provide for my family," McIver said. "I also enjoyed the positive work environment and the camaraderie between my co-workers."
Community leaders, including McIver, recognize how important Interstate Paper is to the success of Liberty County's economy.
More than once, Liberty County has assisted Interstate Paper with projects.  Ronald E. Tolley, chief executive officer of the LCDA, recalls one such instance.  
"The LCDA secured money from the County Revolving Loan Fund on Interstate Paper's behalf," Tolley said. "The funding was used to add an additional roadway lane, making it easier for trucks to enter the plant."
Also, Liberty County approved a $60 million bond issue to Interstate Paper for plant modernization and new equipment, which helped the company maintain its competitive position.
Interstate Paper is grateful for the support it has received from Liberty County, and the employees at the mill have given back to the community by donating a considerable amount of money and time to local causes, nonprofits, schools and special community development projects. Most recently, Gene Millard and his staff hosted the Leadership Liberty class and gave participants a guided tour of the mill.
Ecological stewardship is one of the most important ways Interstate Paper gives back to the community. Interstate seeks to conserve resources, operate efficiently and generally support the community in any way they can.
"When you have a paper mill, you don't just pick up and move," Millard said.  "This is an ideal location for us - we have a very good relationship with the community and all the resources we need are here. Even if we could move, we wouldn't."
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