Arial view of a paper mill

A WestRock paper mill in Florence, South Carolina has attracted three mechanics liens valued at over $5 million since September of 2020 after undergoing a large upgrade intended to improve the plant’s efficiency. 

WestRock is a corrugated packaging company headquartered in Atlanta, GA. Along with being one of the largest packaging companies in the US, its annual revenue of $14.86 billion makes them one of the largest in the world. 

The WestRock mill in Florence aimed to replace three high-cost containerboard machines with a single, more advanced machine. This massive improvement to WestRock’s efficiency was the product of a $410M investment. Starting in 2017, the replacement of those three machines with the new linerboard machine was predicted to finish in the first half of 2020.

Furthermore, the improvement was slated to preserve more than 400 jobs at the Florence Mill.

However, three parties who supplied labor and materials during this upgrade have now filed mechanics liens against the mill.

A mechanics lien, sometimes referred to as a construction lien, works by binding to the property, which can hinder its sale until the debt is satisfied.

When contractors go unpaid on a construction project, they can file a mechanics lien to recover the money they’re owed.

WestRock paper mill attracts mechanics liens valued at over $5M

As of October 23, the three liens against the WestRock plant amount to $5,015,446.22. Each mechanics lien was filed at the Florence County Recorder’s Office, in the county where the WestRock Mill is located.

As indicated by the mechanics lien filings, the project owner is listed as WestRock CP, LLC, and the general contractor is C.R. Meyer and Sons Company. The project is referred to as “WestRock Mill,” and the property’s address is 7320 Mill Road, Florence, SC.

Van Ert Electric Company filed a lien claim of $2.8 million on the construction project on September 14, 2020.

Citing the lien document, Van Ert was an unlicensed subcontractor hired to provide employees to the general contractor, C.R. Meyer and Sons. Van Ert last furnished labor and materials for the construction project in June of 2020.

M.J. Electric was hired by C.R. Meyer for an original contract price of $3.1 million, but were allegedly not paid the total balance. To recover remaining debt, M.J. filed a mechanics lien worth $1.34 million on September 3, 2020.

Intermountain Electric filed a mechanics lien to claim the unpaid amount of $859,000 on September 16, 2020. Intermountain was allegedly only paid $3.1 million of the original contract price of $3.9 million.

Attempting to navigate market slump, North Charleston WestRock mill cuts 260 jobs

According to analysts at Morningstar Research, the containerboard market was already in a slump before the coronavirus pandemic. Yet with COVID putting many packaging firms in a major bind, companies like WestRock are still predicted to weather the storm.

Still, WestRock has seen the need to cut 260 jobs at a mill in North Charleston to make way for another plant improvement — a reconfiguration that reduces the mill’s annual linerboard capacity by approximately 288,000 tons. While it will mean a reduction in jobs, this overhaul is meant to bump WestRock’s annual pre-tax income up by around $40 million.

CEO Steve Voorhees stated: “We understand that this reconfiguration will impact our employees, their families and the community…our teams are working to provide support and resources to our employees and their families as we move forward.”