GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Leaders of Green Bay Packaging announce the company is now fully-run by natural gas after turning off the last coal-fired boiler on Sunday night.
They call it a major milestone in the project to build a new paper mill.
Action 2 News first reported the company's plans to replace its 71-year-old mill with a new state-of-the-art facility in June 2018.
This is the first new paper mill built in the State of Wisconsin in more than 30 years.
The project has come a long way since Green Bay Packaging broke ground on the new mill in August 2018.
"At that time, we were excited to talk about what will be the most-environmentally friendly mill in the United States," said Bryan Hollenbach, executive vice president of Green Bay Packaging.
In a press conference on Monday morning, project leaders announced that is becoming more of a reality as coal powered operations come to an end.
"That is a major milestone, and it happened on the exact date that we planned it," said Hollenbach.
"It's historic, and I think quite frankly over time when this is built there will be companies throughout the United States, if not globally,that will be coming here to see how do they build and make paper in an environmentally sound way," said Troy Streckenbach, Brown County Executive.
Eliminating coal operations is just one of many major milestones still ahead on the paper mill project; however, Hollenbach says he is confident they will meet their deadline. "We'll be starting up the new paper machine in the first quarter of 2021."
He lists a number of other commitments the company made in 2018 that is on track to not only be met but exceeded.
Hollenbach expects the total investment of this project to go beyond $500 million with more than 200 Wisconsin workers hired to work in the mill full-time.
Exactly how much the company exceeds those commitments is still to be seen.
With construction in full force, Hollenbach estimates over 600 subcontractors are on site at any one time. He expects that number will rise to 1,200 subcontractors before the project is completed.
"We're known in Northeast Wisconsin, in Green Bay, for our work ethic, blue-collar background, and the kinds of skilled tradespeople we have in this region," said City of Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich. "This would not be possible without all of the people involved with making that happen."
Despite "tough weather" and some challenges, Hollenbach says the project is still on schedule.