Wausau Paper says it will close mill in central Wisconsin
In another blow to Wisconsin’s papermaking industry, Wausau Paper Corp. on Wednesday said it will close its paper mill in Brokaw and eliminate 450 jobs.
Mosinee-based Wausau Paper also announced that Neenah Paper Inc. will acquire the brands for Wausau’s division that makes paper for printed publications and writing, but Neenah had no interest in buying any machinery or mills. Terms of the sale will not be publicized until the deal closes by Jan. 31, according to a Wausau spokesman.
Wausau Paper will continue to produce other paper-based products such as food packaging, tissues, linings and tape, even as it exits more traditional papermaking businesses.
The Brokaw mill has been part of the company since 1899. Millworkers learned Wednesday it will close, ending their jobs, by March 31.
Wisconsin, which is the nation’s leading papermaking state, has seen mill closures and layoffs as demand declines amid the encroachment of digital media and foreign competition. Paper manufacturing employment statewide fell from 48,000 in 2001 to 32,000 last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Wisconsin Paper Council, a trade group, the state lost over a dozen paper mills in the last decade, off from its peak of nearly 60 in 2001.
The Brokaw paper mill draws workers from throughout the region, said Laverne Grunenwald, a member of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors who retired from the facility 13 years ago after a 25-year career there.
“We are very concerned about it around here,” Grunenwald said of the closing. “They were good jobs. They were decent-paying jobs.”
According to the American Forest & Paper Association, in 2007 and 2008 nationally, 35 paper mills were closed and 79 paper machines were permanently shut down.
Wausau’s decision was “ultimately driven by dramatic and irreversible market demand decline,” said chief executive Thomas Howatt.
Wausau said anticipated closure-related costs and charges, net of proceeds from the sale of the brand, are expected to total about $49 million, or $1 a share.
Wausau Paper shares closed at $8.12, unchanged.