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Sun Also Rises for Former Deltic CEO Ray Dillon

2 min read

The rumor mill has been grinding on what Ray C. Dillon has been doing since he retired last month as CEO of Deltic Timber Corp. with a $3 million compensation package.

But what he has been doing goes back a while: He’s helping Shandong Sun Paper Industry JSC Ltd. of China with its plans to operate in Arkansas.

Dillon, whose sudden departure during a not-so-bad stretch at Deltic surprised many, is serving as a volunteer adviser in Shandong Sun’s long path to putting a billion-dollar pulp mill near Arkadelphia.

“I’m working on a volunteer basis to help the state of Arkansas and Sun Paper in locating the plant here,” Dillon told Whispers by phone last week. “This goes back a couple of years and has always been a part of the effort to attract the plant. It’s the right thing for the state, it’s the right thing for Sun, and it will have an enormous economic impact.”

The Sino-Arkansas courtship has lasted for more than five years and resulted in a memorandum of understanding between the company and the state, announced with great fanfare in April.

The pulp mill, on a 1,054-acre site 5 miles south of Arkadelphia, will be Shandong Sun’s first project in North America, with construction set to begin next year. Dillon has focused on easing Shandong Sun’s culture shock in adjusting to the American way of business.

By the time the plant is completely up and running in 2020, the state expects it to be staffed with 250 workers.

“They are in the process of pre-engineering now,” said Dillon, whose experience in what he calls the “wood basket” is valuable to an enterprise relying on a huge supply of timber, as paper mills do. Dillon led Deltic for 13 years and “left the company operating well and in good shape,” according to the man who replaced him, interim CEO Mark Leland.

“I am not formally engaged by anybody, but I’m offering advice to Sun on how we do things in America,” Dillon said. “They are learning our culture and how we do things here.”

Dillon has had his own cultural immersion in the meantime, visiting China as an emissary for the deal. “I was there about two weeks ago.”

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