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Mill workers at Blue Ridge Paper Products are optimistic about their future under a new owner.

The buyer, a billionaire from New Zealand named Graeme Hart, has been gobbling up market share in the milk and juice carton industry over the past 18 months. His company, the Rank Group, has grown to the world’s second-largest maker of cardboard drink cartons. Hart has spent more than $5 billion on his forays.

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

In the end, the acquisition of Blue Ridge Paper Products by the New Zealand-based Rank Group for $338 million last week may have been the result of the purchase of a single factory in tiny Pine Bluff, Ark.

1893 — The town of Pigeon River is reincorporated by the N.C. General Assembly as Canton, N.C.

By Patrick Willis • Guest Writer

Just more than 100 years ago, Canton welcomed a man from Ohio who would change the town’s history forever.

In early 1905, an industrialist named Peter G. Thomson decided to visit Western North Carolina with the hopes of building a pulp mill and extract plant to supply his paper factories in Ohio. Thomson knew vast timber in the Southern Appalachian Mountains would greatly benefit his business.

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