Hank Newell, president and chief executive officer, said the Harrodsburg expansion is the largest in the company’s 100-year history.
“This machine represents a significant step forward,” Newell said, noting that it represents what can be done when people from across the globe are willing to work together.
“It truly is amazing the number of people that have come together to do what we have done here,” he said.
The expansion has brought more than 76 new jobs to the Harrodsburg plant, with more anticipated.
“There are not many opportunities in one’s career where you get to create the environment you’re going to work in, be involved in hiring the folks you’re going to work with, and actually start up and build a world-class paper machine,” he said, commending those who were involved in the new venture.
For those who have been a part of the plant since it began in Harrodsburg, witnessing the expansion and the addition of the machine was a great experience.
“Very few opportunities like this,” said Del Lesperance, who was an engineering manager when the Harrodsburg plant opened more than 20 years ago.
He has since retired but returned to attend the day’s festivities. Lesperance said that, being an engineer, knowing they had created something like this for the plant that he had been a part of is “exciting.”
He wasn’t alone in that excitement.
For senior vice president of the towel and tissue segment, Matthew Urmanski, who is based in Harrodsburg, the machine and the expansion represent the company’s newest venture and the future of the company.
“Our focus is green leadership,” Urmanski said, explaining that Wausau will be able to expand into all “away-from-home” markets.
According to Urmanski, the project, which was officially launched in April 2011, would not have been possible without the support of the state.
He credited Cabinet for Economic Development Secretary Larry Hayes and the state for having policies “designed to support and promote the economic development of the commonwealth.”
That’s “music” to the ears of those in the governor’s office, Hayes said. The project is an important one not only to Wausau, but also to central Kentucky because of the opportunities it could bring for people living and working in the area, he said.
“We all share a sense of responsibility,” he said of the various cabinets in the state. “We look forward to a long relationship.”
Hayes said Gov. Steve Beshear, who was unable to attend the day’s festivities, stressed the importance of making it work immediately following the initial meeting with Wausau representatives.
“Gov. Beshear looked at the rest of us and said, ‘This is a world-class company, and they’re betting a lot on us being good partners,’” Hayes said.
“We feel that responsibility.”
The names of those who were involved in the project will be memorialized in a large plaque that was unveiled at the end of the ceremony. All guests were invited to take a tour of the facility, viewing the dryer and other parts of the manufacturing site.