Blue Ridge Tissue more than meets the eye
After hearing of Blue Ridge Tissue Company for the first time, one would think that the product would be narrowly focused -- maybe a few varieties of tissue paper.
But from the company’s 78,000-square-foot facility on Yadkin River Road in Patterson, 25 distinct grades of tissue and nearly 2,000 other products are produced and shipped internationally.
The company produces a wide variety of specialty paper products, including one that fits inside high-quality oil filters, an absorbent surface cover and spill protector for use in laboratories, paper used to germinate seeds for research, a paper used in high-tech manufacturing processes, and many more.
The seed-germinating paper is used by such customers as Monsanto and agriculture researchers at Idaho State University, said Dave Hallock, Blue Ridge Tissue's vice president and general manager.
“It’s a market that most people have never heard of, but we’re the standard in the industry,” Hallock said. “Almost all of it is done on our paper.”
Blue Ridge’s Patterson operations started production in 2009, when Wisconsin-based NPS Corp. purchased what was then Omni Supply, a subsidiary of Sealed Air Corp. Hallock, who has worked in the tissue industry since 1979 and moved with the company from Wisconsin, said that before the purchase, NPS was a customer of Omni Supply.
There has been a mill at the site since the 1800s, including an early cotton mill, and the plant has been producing tissue since the 1960s, when it was known as Doll Brothers Paper Company.
To date, Blue Ridge Tissue has invested $10 million in the property and operations, installing new machinery and adding on a new wing of the building.
New stock preparation machinery – which prepares the raw material into pulp, ready to be turned into paper – was installed in 2010, along with a new tissue-making machine that significantly increased the facility’s production.
Hallock said reinvestment is a calling card of NPS, and another major investment in the property was a 5-mile natural gas pipeline that runs to the plant from Lenoir, providing a low-cost energy source that saves Blue Ridge a lot of money because tissue production requires a great deal of energy.
The company has no plans to stop investing in upgrades at the Patterson plant, Hallock said.
“We tend to be hiring all the time – one or two here or there,” he said, adding that the company has never had a layoff.
Blue Ridge uses 100-percent-recycled material to produce all of its products, including scraps from corrugated cardboard plants and from manufacturers of cartons and other paper products.
When asked what sets Blue Ridge apart from its competitors, Hallock chose one word: “Entrepreneurial.”
“We have a lot of different products and options – we’re niche. We have a lot of custom products, just aggressive reinvestment in the company," he said. "That’s why NPS has grown.”