BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – The WestRock paper mill officially closed Monday, leaving the future of the property in question.
The 350-acre parcel of land is zoned for industrial use only and is valuable waterfront property.
Bay County officials have expressed an interest in acquiring the land.
Bay County County Manager Bob Majka said the county signed a rolling 30-day letter of exclusivity with WestRock around two weeks ago, which can be extended up to 180 days.
“What that does for the short term is it is an agreement between West Rock and Bay County that they will not market the property for sale to any outside investors or any outside interested parties until we’ve had a sufficient amount of time to conduct due diligence,” Majka said.
At a Bay County Commission meeting Tuesday, chairman Robert Carroll was authorized to sign letters of engagement with experts that will help determine if it’s worth buying the property or not.
“If we come to the end of this process and we feel like it’s in the public’s best interest we will make an offer and it may be an offer that involves several different partners,” Majka said.
Majka said Eastern Shipbuilding and the Panama City Port Authority are the first to come to mind.
The port already owns a 43-acre east terminal adjacent to WestRock.
Port Director Alex King said the WestRock property would provide a natural economic opportunity for the port to bring in large projects.
“The opportunity to have that land developed and to attract a large manufacturer that’s going to need a port to import or export additional cargo opportunities for Bay County and Panama City to attract other heavy manufacturing, I think it’s a win-win for the community,” King said.
Majka also said the county wants to make sure the jobs at Kraton chemical manufacturing right next to the mill are well protected.