FRANKFORT -- Phoenix Paper LLC plans to invest $200 million to build a paper recycling facility on the grounds of the Wickliffe mill it purchased only a year ago, Gov. Matt Bevin announced.

"This new recycling facility will bring a tremendous amount of additional economic activity to the West Kentucky region for decades to come. The project will further support Phoenix Paper's commitment to create 500 good-paying jobs in Ballard County," Bevin said. "The company's ongoing investment in the Wickliffe region is truly proving transformative, and it further demonstrates how Kentucky leads the way as a destination for international investment in engineering and manufacturing."

Company leaders plan to use the existing site to build a paper-and-pulp recycling facility. With an estimated 700,000-ton annual capacity, the new facility will receive post-consumer cardboard and mixed paper from various regional locations. Following cleaning and screening of the raw material, the stock will be formed and dried into industrial pulp and finished paper. Current design and equipment specifications are being finalized with construction to begin before the end of the year. The project is expected to be completed within 14 to 18 months.

Phoenix Paper's expansion comes as the Bevin administration seeks to attract investment from China. Amid national-level tensions, Kentucky has led the way in laying groundwork for future business and job-creation opportunities between the two countries, which respectively represent the world's largest and second-largest economies.

A year ago, executives with Phoenix Paper, along with Bevin and local leaders announced the company would purchase the mill for about $16 million, refurbish it with a $150 million investment and reopen it, eventually creating 500 full-time positions. The mill opened early this year and produced its first roll of bleached, hardwood pulp on May 29. The facility currently employs more than 200 people and has an annual capacity of 300,000 tons.

The mill's former owner, Verso Corp., faced a market shift away from coated paper for magazines and other print media. It idled the facility in late 2015, furloughing more than 300 employees, and closed the operation in July 2016.

Kentucky is home to eight Chinese-owned facilities, currently employing about 8,700 people.

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