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Canton residents still waiting for answers about Pactiv Evergreen stock sale

A view of Canton (Guangzhou), on the Pearl River in China, circa 1840. Canton was already a great trading port when the American ship Empress of China arrived in 1784 to fill up its hold with tea.
Lilly Knoepp
The Canton papermill has loomed large on the town's skyline for over 100 years.

Canton residents are still waiting for answers about the sale of stock by executives of the Pactiv Evergreen papermill.

Congressman Chuck Edwards called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the selling of stock by company executives just before the closure was announced. BPR checked in with Edwards about a week after he sent the SEC the request.

“I haven’t heard anything from the commissioner, and I wouldn’t expect to for a few weeks,” Edwards said.

The sale was automatic and not a discretionary sale made by executives, the company told BPR in a statement.

The closing of the mill is deeply personal for Edwards, he said.

“As a child I lived in a mill house, within sight of that papermill. I’ve had countless uncles and cousins work at that papermill and it’s been the lifeblood of the Canton North Carolina for over a hundred years,” he said.

Edwards says that Pactiv executives told him the closure of the mill is the result of a reduction of a product line and because of upgrades that were needed at the mill.

The SEC investigation into the stock sale is “warranted because of its suspicious nature," he said.

“I would find it a travesty to know that there was some illegal activity that contributed to so many people losing their jobs,” Edwards said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called for Pactiv Evergreen to give back $12 million in the state incentives as a result of the closure. NC Attorney General Josh Stein – who is running as a Democratic candidate to replace Cooper in 2024 – said he supports this call to action and will hold the company accountable in court.

Edwards said he will also seek federal assistance through the U.S. Department of Labor and other avenues.

“Just this morning, I had a phone conversation with Senator Corbin," he said. "I’m very much working to coordinate the federal efforts with the state efforts to make sure that we are not duplicative and that we are very specific and targeted in the resources that we can each bring to Haywood County to work through this crisis."

Haywood Community College has a resource page for those affected by the mill closure including an upcoming job fair in Fletcher on March 23rd.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.