(Nov. 21) If first impressions are everything, produce industry customers of Georgia-Pacific Corp., Atlanta, shouldn’t worry too much about the company’s recent sale to a Kansas conglomerate.

Wichita-based Koch Industries bought the paper and packaging giant on Nov. 14 for about $21 billion, including debt. Georgia-Pacific will be operated as a privately held, wholly owned subsidiary of Koch and will continue to operate in Atlanta as an independently managed company, said Georgia-Pacific spokesman Steve Church.

While he couldn’t comment specifically on the fate of the company’s line of fresh produce packaging, Church said early signals from Koch indicate it wants to position Georgia-Pacific for robust growth.

“In general, if you look at their track record, they view us as a major acquisition and see opportunities for us to grow and prosper together,” he said.

Koch typically reinvests 90% of its earnings back into its subsidiary companies, Church said, indicating its commitment to growth.

Georgia-Pacific’s GP Tops produce packaging lineup includes traditional corrugated boxes, bulk bins, display-ready corrugated and reusable plastic containers.

The company is one of the top RPC providers to the Southeast. Jeanie Johnson, executive director of the Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition, Washington, D.C., said Georgia-Pacific’s sale to Koch should be good news for the RPC industry.

“I assume it’s going to expand our marketplace presence,” she said. “Koch is a remarkable company. They’re very aggressive and successful marketers of their goods and services.”

Last spring, Georgia-Pacific unveiled its Greenshield recyclable packaging, which provides many of the advantages of wax boxes but is recyclable. Greenshield boxes have been used to pack grapes, melons, peaches, celery hearts, tray-pack corn, squash, cucumbers, peppers and green beans.

The company’s 25,000-square-foot Innovation Center in Norcross, Ga., opened in 2004, was created to develop new packaging for fresh produce and other industries.