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Rural Florida Creates Inviting Environment
For Residential & Manufacturing Growth
When Rayonier Advanced Materials (RYAM) – the leading global supplier of high-purity, cellulose specialties natural polymers for the chemical industry – opened a plant in Florida’s Nassau County in 1939, the company saw two invaluable and abundant natural resources: Southern yellow pine trees and water. Cellulose specialty products are essential for the manufacturing of consumer products from pharmaceuticals and food to cosmetics, paints and even disposable diapers. RYAM saw the value of the plentiful resources.
Fernandina Beach, located in Nassau County on the northern coast of Amelia Island, is where RYAM set up operations. It found this site came with added benefits: a desirable, livable location, offering a 13-mile stretch of beach just off the coast of Northeast Florida.
Fernandina Beach has thrived and grown since RYAM launched operations some 80 years ago. In fact, Nassau County is but one of Florida’s plentiful rural areas of opportunity. With a seemingly endless supply of affordable land and accessible infrastructure, the manufacturing industry continues to grow year-over-year throughout the state.
A Partnership Forms
Fast-forward to June 2018 when the world’s most advanced biochemical company – Borregaard – teamed up with RYAM to launch a joint venture in Fernandina Beach. The two companies formally opened LignoTech Florida, which has already begun producing lignin to meet the growing demand for the versatile substance.
Providing both agricultural and building applications, lignin is a byproduct of pulp processing which, until the arrival of LignoTech Florida, was released as a non-commercialized waste product at the RYAM mill. According to the International Lignin Institute, “Lignin is an organic substance binding the cells, fibers and vessels which constitute wood and the lignified elements of plants, as in straw. After cellulose, it is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth.”
The new lignin facility was built and commissioned at a cost of $110 million, will create 51 new jobs and have an initial production capacity of 100,000 tons per year (TPY). In the second phase of the project, the capacity could be expanded by another 50,000 TPY, according to the companies involved.
Environmentally and Economically Friendly
Converting lignin into a product with market value has a positive environmental impact as well, since less carbon will be released into the atmosphere from pulp processing. Borregaard and RYAM have similar mindsets and strategies in approaching their work as they both strive for sustainability.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the added diversification of Nassau County’s economy through the LignoTech Florida venture will also positively impact the community’s residents and landowners. The area has grown tremendously, drawing employees who, in turn, contribute to keeping the local economy alive. In fact, from 1969 until 2014, the county’s population increased by 282 percent.
In 2014, RYAM and corrugated packaging company WestRock accounted for 13.3 percent of Nassau County’s total workforce and contributed $1.2 billion to the economy. With more than 4,000 jobs generated by the two companies, both directly and indirectly, they also contribute more than $252 million in earnings to local workers and small businesses, according to a study conducted by the University of Florida.
The reasonable cost of living and a gorgeous beachfront setting have no doubt added to the appeal of Nassau County. It’s a place where people can raise families in a diverse community, and the manufacturing plants will continue to be a key piece of that.
While Amelia Island is a popular tourism and retirement destination, the presence of manufacturing helps balance the economy and keeps it from facing some of the challenges grappled with by resort-focused destinations. The beauty of Nassau County is that people can live and work there.
In addition to being an affordable community, Fernandina Beach is accessible, which has been key to the area’s success.
While it earned fame as the lifeline of beach culture, a small segment of the iconic A1A (SR 200 East/West to I-95) also serves as the lifeblood of local commerce, forming a strategic transportation corridor that sustains the diverse economy of Amelia Island.
For any manufacturing business, transportation is critical with the ability of the roads and highways to keep product flowing. It is aptly named part of the Strategic Intermodal System because it keeps the area connected.
As expansion continues, and with Florida’s 28 million miles of untapped, rural land, all of these components work together to create an environment that is primed to manage both residential and manufacturing growth, with each complementing the other.