Kruger Products has broken ground on a new $351.5-million tissue manufacturing plant in Sherbrooke, Que., bringing total investment by the company in the Estrie region since 2018 to nearly $1 billion.

The plant is being built adjacent to one that was recently constructed in the Brompton Borough along the Saint-Francois River. The structure was finished just last year and inaugurated in June.

Construction on the new plant will take place over the next two years and generate numerous construction jobs and direct employment in the plant itself.

The project will deliver on the company’s vision to make Sherbrooke a major premium-quality tissue product manufacturing hub in North America.

The future plant, scheduled to be commissioned in 2024, will be equipped with a TAD double-width tissue machine. The project also includes the installation of two additional conversion lines, one in the existing plant that will produce bathroom tissue and the other in the new plant for manufacturing facial tissue.

Kruger Products is Canada’s leading manufacturer of tissue products for household, industrial and commercial use. Its parent company, Kruger Inc., is a fourth-generation family company headquartered in Montreal since 1904 that has facilities across Canada and the U.S.

An estimated 60,000 metric tonnes of tissue will be produced annually at the new plant for the Canadian and American markets. When the plant is up and running in 2024, total production at the Sherbrooke facilities will be 130,000 metric tonnes of tissue products each year.

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Quebec Premier Francois Legault, Kruger Products chief executive officer Dino Bianco, and other dignitaries attended a sod-turning at the site recently.

“With this expansion project, we are extremely proud to deliver on our vision to make Sherbrooke a major tissue-product manufacturing hub in North America as well as an outstanding technological showcase that spotlights the company, the region and our employees’ know-how,” said Bianco.

The first plant benefitted from an additional $25-million investment to implement artificial intelligence functions that make it one of Canada’s best-performing and most technologically advanced manufacturing facilities.

Kruger is a good example of what we want to achieve in Quebec: to push innovation so we can adapt to the transformation of our economy, to develop new technologies right here, to increase the competitiveness and productivity of our businesses, and to reduce the wealth gap with Ontario,” said Legault.

“We want to work with our business leaders for a better future. This is how, together, we will build the economy of a winning Quebec.”

Economy and Innovation Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said with the new plant and the one under construction, Kruger is demonstrating that the company is at the forefront of new product development.

“The pulp and paper industry has evolved at a fast pace these past few years, and it is thanks to companies like Kruger that Quebec continues to be a leader in that field.”

The double-wide tissue machine to be installed and housed in the expansion will feature LDC technology. LDC stands for light dry crepe and is one of the most widely used tissue-making technologies in the world.

The two additional converting lines will be commissioned successively in 2022 and 2023, and the LDC machine is expected to start up a year later, in 2024.

A number of tissue products will be produced at the plants, including Cashmere UltraLuxe, Scotties facial tissue, and SpongeTowels.

Building the new plant will require some 660,000 person-hours of work and generate substantial economic benefits for the region. The project will lead to the creation of 141 additional direct jobs, bringing the total number of jobs at the site to 348, including those at a biomass cogeneration plant owned and operated by Kruger Specialty Papers.

Taking into account the 46 employees at the Kruger Products’ Lennoxville Plant, there will be 394 people working for the Kruger group in the Estrie region.

Close to 410,000 person-hours of construction work will be required to build the new plant. The expansion project will also bring significant benefits to the region in terms of direct spending estimated at $110 million.

The first plant at the site required more than one million person-hours of work and helped to create some 1,700 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase. The project was completed on time and on budget in early 2021 despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was commissioned in 2021.

About 180 employees are presently working at the first plant and Kruger says it has been performing well above expectations since it was commissioned last year.

The plant was recently honoured with two awards at the Sherbrooke Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 35th Estrie Recognition Gala. The plant received the Manufacturing Business Award and the International Visibility Citation Award.

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