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Halltown paper mill celebrates milestone

By Staff | Jan 22, 2010

Ox Paperboard President Kevin Hayward stands by as finished paperboard rolls off the dryer in Halltown. The factory is the oldest manufacturer in West Virginia, with 140 years of continuous operation. A celebration banquet is planned Jan. 30 at Charles Town Races & Slots. Photo by Daniel Friend/Chronicle

HALLTOWN – In 1869, a mill here on Flowing Springs Run used old rags and straw to turn out 6 tons of strawboard per day for use in making hat boxes and shoe boxes.

With 140 years of production, the mill is the oldest manufacturer in continuous operation in West Virginia.

In late 2007, Ox Paperboard bought the majority of the assets of Halltown Paperboard and began to operate the mill, located on a 53-acre site at U.S. 340 and Halltown Road. Ox manufactures the paper for spiral and convolute wound paper tubes at Ox Paper Tube & Core Inc. a national company headquartered in Hanover, Pa. The Hanover company had been buying paper from Halltown since 2004 and developed a good relationships with the Halltown employees.

Today, 80 workers at Ox Paperboard LLC produce about 135 tons of paperboard daily for paper tubes, gift boxes, angle board, protective packaging sheets, store tapes and labels and more. Twenty-five percent of the product is used in the Hanover plant’s tube operation with the other 75 sold on the open market, which includes customers as far away as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

During a tour of the facility this week, Ox Paperboard President Kevin J. Hayward, credited the dedicated staff for the success of the business, which has used essentially the same manufacturing process for about 100 years, he said.

“The reason why the mill is successful right now is solely because of the people that are here,” Hayward said. “I don’t know any other place . . . that has people like I have,” Hayward said. “If there is, I would love to see it.”

He marvels at the work record of the paper mill, noting 11 employees have 40 years and more experience, six have worked more than 30 years, and 13 have worked more than 20. “It’s something that you’ll never see again.”

The company’s 140th anniversary and the longevity of its workers will be celebrated Jan. 30 at the Charles Town Races & Slots during a company banquet in their honor.

“This mill has had great times and it’s had hard times,” Hayward said. “We’re in a real tough time right now.” He said finding new markets for the paperboard has ensured the company’s success.

And Hayward has made environmental stewardship a mission.

“We are truly a living history of manufacturing in West Virginia and one of the greenest companies in the State,” he said. “We’re a net positive to the environment right now.”

Hayward wants to reach out to local municipalities to provide recycling pickup locations for paper products. Towns pay about $50 per ton to send materials to the landfill, he noted.

The company uses waste paper of all sorts – cardboard, newsprint, magazines, cereal and food boxes to name a few – to produce a 100 percent recycled paperboard. It recycles water pulled from Flowing Springs. The mill has a permit to discharge and hopes to become a zero discharge plant.

Hayward said Ox Paperboard is positioned to increase production from about 41,000 tons a year to 51,000 and add 23 employees.

“We have the business for it,” he said. “We just do not have the funds.”