Archived News

Gov. Cooper: Pactiv Evergreen must pay back $12 million state grant if mill closes

Gov. Roy Cooper, seen here at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in 2019, had strong words for Pactiv Evergreen's CEO in a March 2016 letter. Gov. Roy Cooper, seen here at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in 2019, had strong words for Pactiv Evergreen's CEO in a March 2016 letter. Cory Vaillancourt photo

In a letter sent by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to Mike King, CEO of Pactiv Evergreen, Cooper says that closing the Canton paper mill would violate the terms of a 2015 economic development deal and require the company to repay the state $12 million.

“North Carolina has been a partner to Pactiv Evergreen since it purchased the Canton mill, as demonstrated through a 2015 economic development agreement that provided $12 million to your company, efforts to rebuild and restore transportation vital to the plant’s operation in the wake of Tropical Storm Fred, and many other actions,” reads the letter, sent by Cooper on March 16. 

Cooper went on to urge Pactiv Evergreen to “explore all options to keep the Canton mill in operation” either through sale, repurposing or other options, and warns of consequences if it’s not. 

“The mill’s closure would be a clear violation of a contract that two Pactiv Evergreen subsidiaries signed with the North Carolina Department of Commerce in February 2015,” Cooper said. 

Signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory back in 2014, the Job Maintenance and Capital Development (JMAC) Agreement promised the mill’s owners $12 million over 10 years to convert its coal-fired boilers to natural gas, contingent on the company spending at least $51 million. 

An October 2022 report on the grant program says that the $12 million has been fully disbursed and that the company had actually spent more than $56 million. 

Related Items

Some, including Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, had openly wondered if there weren’t clawback provisions in the agreement or if the mill’s closing could possibly place Pactiv Evergreen in noncompliance with the terms of the deal. 

The Smoky Mountain News first reported that the grant was still active after a North Carolina Department of Commerce spokesperson said that the DOC had begun an investigation into the specific circumstances of the company’s action as it might relate to repayments under the JMAC agreement. 

“In this Job Maintenance and Capital Development Agreement (“JMAC Agreement”), Pactiv Evergreen promised to maintain operations at the Canton mill and to retain at least 800 full-time employees through December 31, 2024,” Cooper’s letter reads. “Closing the paper mill in Canton would be a clear breach of the JMAC agreement. That breach would require you to repay in full the $12 million received under the contract. If you follow through your announced plans we will demand full repayment of those funds.”

Cooper said the breach would occur because Pactiv Evergreen promised to retain at least 800 full-time employees through Dec. 31, 2024 as part of the agreement. Also cc’d on the letter are Attorney General Josh Stein and several members of his staff. 

Smathers said he wasn’t surprised to see the letter. 

“The conversation I had with Gov. Cooper in the hours following the closure announcement, he is doing exactly what he said he would do, which is put money in his budget for Canton and hold Pactiv Evergreen responsible for their legal obligations whether that is grants or cleanup,” Smathers said. “This letter is proof he is doing that. Where does it go from here? We’ll see. From day one, Democrats and Republicans in Raleigh have seen this not as a Canton crisis but as a statewide crisis. I appreciate Gov. Cooper’s tenacity in holding the company responsible to taxpayers.” 

Leave a comment


  • I would like to know how much of the 12 million has satisfied with the original agreement.
    " $12 million over 10 years to convert its coal-fired boilers to natural gas, contingent on the company spending at least $51 million. "
    How much of the above quote has been fulfilled? I can't imagine how hard this will be on the community but a business should have the right to make decisions for the better of their company.
    Well, pay the 12 million to the Governor and move on.

    posted by Donna Wegner

    Thursday, 04/06/2023

  • Dear Mr. Cooper, I would be very grateful for your input on the people that has been removed from N.C. due to flood and developments buying everything .We lost everything we worked our entire life for a piece of property,that had been promised to us. Invested my whole inheritance in the house to keep a good home for retirement then told we had to go with out any compensation from any one. We were not affected by flood but still had to go. Thirty three years down the drain. How are you supposed to start another life at retirement age. These developments are not doing people right and don't know where my future stands. It's hard leaving family behind because there property is so expensive you have to relocate to another state. I am very concerned about the papermill closing. Because I lived there my entire life and raised my family there. I feel if one person loses there home over developments that is one to many and they should have to compensate them some. Starting your life over at sixty-two is not easy and very unlikely that you will ever have a paid for home again. Thank you I hope this issue will be addressed.Thanks for your time.

    posted by REGINA

    Wednesday, 03/29/2023


    posted by Bobby Burnette

    Saturday, 03/18/2023

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.