Sofidel paper company to build Inola plant
From left, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor, Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Sofidel Group CEO and President Luigi Lazzareschi, Tulsa Regional Chamber CEO and President Mike Neal, Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. prepare to break ground on March 16 for a $360 million paper plant in Inola. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
INOLA – Cherokee Nation leaders joined Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, along with state, county and civic leaders, in welcoming Sofidel CEO and President Luigi Lazzareschi for a March 16 groundbreaking of the Italian-based paper company’s $360-million-dollar plant.
The plant is expected to support 300 jobs initially.
“This is going to be a big investment with a lot of technology,” Lazzareschi said. “For those who don’t know, this is a family only dedicated to tissues. We have never been in any other business than tissue for more than 50 years.”
He said when completed the plant would be about 2 million square feet, which is 5 percent larger than the largest Sofidel plant in Ohio.
Fallin called the announcement and groundbreaking a great day in Oklahoma. She said she traveled to Sofidel’s Italian headquarters two years ago. Once there, Fallin said she knew she had found a great opportunity for, Inola, Rogers County, Tulsa and the northeast region of the state.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he would normally welcome everyone to the CN, but the groundbreaking was held in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s jurisdiction. He said the CN was “within shooting distance” from where he was standing. He also informed Lazzareschi that assistance would be coming from CN Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelly.
As for Cherokee Nation’s involvement with the Sofidel plant, much is still in the planning phase, CN officials said.
Although after the groundbreaking, CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the Sofidel plant site is significant. Sofidel will build on the same site where 40 years ago Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed building a nuclear energy facility. One of the reasons it was never built is because Native American activists, including many Cherokees, protested against it, he said.
PSO has retained ownership of the property, which has remained vacant and undeveloped despite its location on the Kerr Navigation Channel and proximity to the Port of Catoosa, the furthest inland port and one of the busiest ports in the United States.
“We routinely work with our state, regional and local partners to find opportunities that best suit all involved, and this was a location that worked best for everyone. About 40,000 Cherokee Nation citizens live within 20 miles of this facility, and when you look at a 25-mile radius, the number of Cherokee Nation citizens grows to more than 57,000,” Hoskin said. “The location is just a couple of miles outside of our (CN) boundaries, and our own Career Services department will help recruit the workforce for Sofidel. Because of that we believe Cherokee Nation citizens will be among the first hired.”
Sofidel is one of the leading makers of hygienic tissue paper with locations in 13 countries. It places an emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.
“We believe our mission alignment and the number of jobs and opportunities they will provide make them an extremely valuable partner in our economic development goals, which are to help make northeast Oklahoma an attractive place to live, work and raise a family,” Hoskin said.