Headquartered in Greenville, Bowater Incorporated is a world leader in the manufacture of newsprint and coated ground-wood papers. The company began in England in 1889 as a family-run paper supply business. In 1924 family members incorporated as Bowater Paper Company and commenced paper manufacturing operations. During the ensuing decades, the company went international by establishing plants in Scandinavia, Canada, and the United States. Bowater opened its first U.S. facility in Calhoun, Tennessee, then set its sights on constructing a massive paper and pulp mill at Catawba in York County, South Carolina. The successful recruitment of Bowater was an early high-water mark in South Carolina’s campaign to attract foreign manufacturing, but it also underscored the lengths to which state leaders would go to secure industrial development.
In order to bring Bowater to South Carolina, Governor George Bell Timmerman called a special session of the General Assembly in June 1956, during which he urged legislators to amend state laws in order to encourage the English company to locate in the state. Legislators obliged by rewriting the state’s foreign ownership laws, which had limited foreigners to holding no more than 500 acres of land. The revised law permitted Bowater, or any foreign corporation, to acquire as many as 500,000 acres. The state’s Pollution Control Authority likewise accommodated Bowater by exempting the company from some recently enacted pollution control standards.
Although a few critics accused Timmerman and the General Assembly of selling the state’s birthright for “a mess of pottage,” the overall reaction to Bowater’s arrival in South Carolina was overwhelmingly positive. Construction on the Catawba plant began soon after, and the completed facility was dedicated in 1959.
The Catawba mill produces coated paper, uncoated ground-wood paper, and pulp, with a total annual production capacity of 982,000 short tons. Catawba’s Pulp Mill No. 2 reached a milestone of 2 million tons in 1996. Its Pulp Mill No. 3 is the largest coated ground-wood machine in North America. The relationship between Bowater and South Carolina was further strengthened in 1993, when the company moved its North American headquarters to Greenville.
Cobb, James C. The Selling of the South: The Southern Crusade for Industrial Development, 1936–1980. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.
Reader, W. J. Bowater: A History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.