PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After the Panama City paper mill owner Westrock announced the mill will be shutting down on June 6, Panama City Port Authority has been discussing what’s next for them.
Those discussions include plans to offer jobs to laid-off workers and possibly purchasing the mill property.
“I was saddened to hear the closure of the mill. The mill has been a very important part of Panama City and Bay County for over 92 years. Anytime you lose an industry in your community it’s a hard hit, but I do know Bay County is resilient,” Port Director Alex King said.
King said the port is growing and they’d be willing to talk with any mill employees that want to apply.
“They employ a very talented workforce and we are certainly hoping for the very best of every employee affected by the Westrock closure. Port positions that are open we would certainly take applications from Westrock employees who are looking once their time with Westrock is done,” King said.
At Thursday’s port authority meeting, officials said they have spoken with the city and the county regarding the paper mill property.
King said industrial land that is waterfront is very attractive for port activity, but those talks are in the very early stages.
“A lot goes into when you shut down a large industrial manufacturing facility, especially one that has as much history as that site does,” King said. “So the port authority would be working to really understand the history of that site, doing a lot of research to see how that site could be best utilized moving forward. At this time, we have not talked with Westrock, but we look forward to talking to them in the future.”
King said the paper mill closing means the port will see a loss of cargo that is manufactured at the mill, but the port will be working very hard to replace what they’ll lose.
The port ships cargo manufactured at the mill to markets worldwide.
Port officials expect to lose 5,000 tons of cargo each month that the mill ships through the east terminal.