Pratt Paper chief brings million-dollar surprises to Henderson, Kentucky, groundbreaking

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HENDERSON, Ky. — When Anthony Pratt came across the world to Henderson to break ground Thursday for the big Pratt Paper recycling mill and box plant it will build here, he brought some million-dollar surprises.

The Australian, who is the global executive chairman of parent company Pratt Industries/Visy, stunned the assembled crowd of Hendersonians by announcing his company will donate $1 million to the state’s Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. Gov. Andy Beshear, who was also on hand for the groundbreaking, said earlier that the state will take no administrative expenses out of what is donated so that all the money will go to help Western Kentucky recover from last Friday night’s devastating tornadoes.

In his next breath, Pratt said his company will also be donating $1 million to the Tri-State Food Bank. That organization distributes food to nonprofit organizations in 33 counties in the region, including Christian Community Outreach in Henderson, to help feed those in danger of going hungry.

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Those surprises each drew a standing ovation from the crowd at the plant site on the Kentucky 425/South Bypass.

Local dignitaries and Pratt Industries executives applaud the announcement by Pratt Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, center, that his company will donate $1 million to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund and another $1 million to the Tri-State Food Bank. Pratt was on hand for Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking for his company’s $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass.
Local dignitaries and Pratt Industries executives applaud the announcement by Pratt Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, center, that his company will donate $1 million to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund and another $1 million to the Tri-State Food Bank. Pratt was on hand for Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking for his company’s $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass.

But it was Beshear who unveiled the biggest surprise: Pratt Paper will be investing $500 million into the 320-employee complex it will build in Henderson, $100 million more than first announced last July.

The Pratt complex will include what the governor described as “the cleanest, greenest 100% recycled paper mill in the country and it’s right here in Henderson, Kentucky.”

“Pratt Industries will make Henderson, Kentucky, the center of the universe for recycled paper,” Beshear declared.

That 650,000-square-foot mill will employ approximately 120 people and be completed by 2023.

In addition, Pratt will construct a 500,000-square-foot corrugator plant to produce corrugated sheet and boxes for major distributors and big box stores, using paper sourced from the new paper mill. Construction of the corrugator plant will be completed by 2023 and employ 200 people.

Construction of both plants will start early next year.

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The complex will pay wages averaging nearly $30 per hour, or $39 per hour including benefits.

Examples of the corrugated shipping boxes that Pratt manufactures were on display Thursday and included boxes for Kentucky-made Evan Williams bourbon as well as Tide detergent and Domino’s pizza.

The tornadoes that ripped through Western Kentucky six days earlier and killed at least 75 Kentuckians wasn’t forgotten Thursday.

An artist’s rendering shows one of the plants that Pratt Paper will build on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass as part of a $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex.
An artist’s rendering shows one of the plants that Pratt Paper will build on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass as part of a $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex.

“Today’s the day we celebrate, but we can’t forget our neighbors who are suffering,” Missy Vanderpool, executive director of Henderson Economic Development, who led the team that recruited Pratt to Henderson.

Beyond its million-dollar donation to relief efforts, Beshear suggested that Pratt Paper — which he describes as the biggest economic development achievement in Western Kentucky in the past 25 years — could be part of the healing of the region.

“One of the most important things for a solid community, a resilient community, is good jobs,” he said.

“These are jobs for the future, for the next 40 or 50 years,” Beshear said. “However dark the past six days have been, we have a bright future.”

“In a few years, lives will be changed; people will be impacted,” Rev. Charles Johnson declared during his invocation.

“Pratt’s move here is a big part of what is an amazing year in Kentucky” that has included announcements of $11 billion in industrial investments that will create 17,000 full-time jobs in the coming years, Beshear said. Those jobs will pay an average of $24.15 per hour before benefits.

“This year we shattered every economic development ever set,” he declared.

Beshear credited Lonnie Ali, the widow of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, for tipping him off about Pratt Paper being an economic development prospect.

She became friends with Anthony Pratt through Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Center, for which she is the founder and vice chair and the Pratt Foundation is the Founding Patron.

Beshear said Lonnie Ali, who was seated on the front row of Thursday’s ceremony, phoned him earlier this year and said, “Andy, I have a good friend who might want to bring good jobs to Kentucky,” triggering the recruitment of Pratt.

Gov. Andy Beshear, center, chats with Pratt Industries Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, far right, and other company executives following the ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for the company’s $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass.
Gov. Andy Beshear, center, chats with Pratt Industries Executive Chairman Anthony Pratt, far right, and other company executives following the ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday for the company’s $500 million paper recycling and corrugated box manufacturing complex on Henderson’s Kentucky 425/South Bypass.

Ed Kersey, who will be general manager of the Henderson complex and has already moved here, was on hand for the ceremony.

“Soon construction will actually begin, Ed tells me, and the excitement will be magnified,” Henderson Mayor Steve Austin said.

Henderson County Judge/Executive Brad Schneider predicted a bright future for the Pratt operation here.

“We’ll make Henderson, Kentucky, Pratt’s most profitable plant in the world,” he declared.

This article originally appeared on Henderson Gleaner: Pratt Paper to donate $1M to Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund