Flambeau River Papers LLC has idled its largest paper machine at its mill in Park Falls, Wisconsin. The move will leave 82 of their 289 employees, or 28% of its total workforce, out of a job. The company blames the layoffs on increasing production costs and decreasing sales.
According to a company statement provided by “That while papers like laser bond and offset have been good fill grades for the mill in the past, they are no longer, and jeopardize the mills [sic] ability to continue operations,” said Flambeau River Papers CEO Butch Johnson. “Therefore, we will exit production of these commodity type papers and idle our #3PM.”
The type of paper the machine made was sold as printer and copier paper. According to a spokesperson at the mill, the market for these kind of paper products has crashed, while the price of pulpwood, the raw material the paper is made from, has increased significantly.
“As a result of idling #3PM, some of our fellow FRP employees will lose their jobs and our surrounding community will be impacted. This will be painful for all of us. We are committed to doing what we can to help the affected employees find new jobs,” Johnson closed with. “These painful changes at the mill are necessary to help ensure a viable and sustainable pulp and paper operation for Flambeau River Papers, the City of Park Falls, and all the good paying jobs that the mill provides.”
The expected job cuts include 67 union employees and 15 management positions. Some employees have already been notified, while others will be terminated in the coming weeks.
For Park Falls, a town of 2,400 people, the layoffs at Flambeau River Papers will hit the small community hard. On top of that, those being laid off will have difficulty finding similar jobs in Park Falls.
“Very difficult to find similar jobs for equal pay in this area, this is one of the top paying jobs,” said Carl Graceffa, vice president of the local union. “Without re-education and stuff like that, people are going to have a hard time finding jobs of equal pay.”
Before the layoffs were announced, the mill employed 289 people.
Flambeau River Papers will continue to operate two smaller machines that produce high-grade specialty papers. Idling the largest machine reduces the mill’s pulp consumption by 100,000 tons per year.
“Flambeau River Papers CEO affirms value added and specialty paper strategy; Announces reduction in commodity paper capacity,” Flambeau River Papers LLC, January 5, 2018.
“Layoffs at Flambeau River Papers,” WSAU, January 9, 2018.
“Flambeau River Papers shuts down largest paper machine,” Ashland Daily Press, January 5, 2018.