Arkadelphia, Camden Wait for Chinese Firm To Put Plans to Paper

When word went out that Gov. Beebe was about to announce a $1 billion investment in Arkansas, some folks in south Arkansas were surprised that it turned out to be a steel mill in Osceola.

They thought it was going to be a Chinese wood pulp mill at Camden or Arkadelphia.

Beebe has hinted around about this project before. After a trip to China in April, he spoke of two strong business possibilities, including one related to the timber industry.

But Whispers, you know, likes to do more than hint around. So here’s what’s happening:

A company called Sun Paper — specifically Shandong Sun Paper Industry — plans to invest about $1 billion in building a plant employing 350 in one of those two south Arkansas towns for the purpose of producing paper pulp to be exported back to China.

The smart money seems to be betting on Camden, with its abandoned International Paper Co. site and bountiful surface water supply. In a feature published last summer, trade journal Pulp & Paper International noted that Sun Paper “has a dynamic joint venture with global giant International Paper producing high quality ivory board for liquids and food packaging as well as a lucrative and growing dissolving pulp division.”

But Arkadelphia, unlike Camden, has interstate access.

At any rate, one of the two cities expects to make an announcement as exciting as Osceola’s in the next few weeks.

P&PI described Sun Paper as a 30-year-old company founded by its chairman, Li Hongxin, and producing close to 3.5 million tons per year of paper and board products, “including liquid board packaging, electrostatic papers, coated graphic papers and copy papers from around 15 subsidiaries and facilities.”

All of that requires a lot of wood pulp.