Well, Thursday brought the announcement of something we knew anyway: the province is lending up to $110 million to Kruger to keep the Corner Brook paper mill running, citing the argument that the loan was guaranteed with the company’s power assets and would mean $250 million in direct and indirect salaries annually.
Now, for other paper market news from the past month. There’s this, from Jan. 22: “UPM-Kymmene
Corporation will permanently close down the Docelles paper mill in France. ... UPM offers support to employees in order to alleviate the effects caused by staff reductions in relation to the closing of the mill. The Docelles mill employs 161 people. … The production will cease by the end of January 2014. With the closure of the mill UPM will reduce a total of 160,000 tons of its fine paper capacity.”
And this, from AL.com, Jan. 31: “Courtland, Alabama — International Paper is in the home stretch as it gets ready to lay off a few hundred workers and shut down its final two paper machines to prepare for the closure of Lawrence County’s largest employer in March. Laura Gipson, spokeswoman for the Courtland mill, said the plant’s last two paper machines — C34 and C35 — will be shuttered during the next several days and approximately 500 workers will be cut the week of Feb. 10.”
This, from KLPU 88.5 Seattle and Northwest on Jan. 31: “A paper mill in Hoquiam has had its share of ups and downs over the past seven years. It was a major employer and once even referred to as the ‘greenest’ paper mill in the country. It was also a symbol for Grays Harbor County’s effort to reinvent itself after the timber market collapsed. But now the mill is closed for good. In late October 2012, there was a celebration to mark the reopening of the mill. Among those speaking that day was then-candidate for governor, Jay Inslee. ‘It doesn’t matter what the weather is, the brightest place today in the state of Washington is right here at Harbor Paper, that’s for sure,’ he said. Inslee went on to call the mill restart an ‘economic rebirth.’ It meant 175 mill workers had a job again. … Just three months later, the new owners suspended operations.”
In Maine, another newsprint mill laid off 200 people.
“Great Northern Paper in East Millinocket said Thursday that it would halt paper production for up to four months amid high production costs and lower market prices for its paper,” the Portland Press Herald reported on Jan 24. “GNP, which makes paper for newspapers, catalogs and paperback books, said the paper industry has become more competitive than ever, and that continues to drive paper prices down. That means less revenue coming in at a time when the company is paying high costs for wood, pulp and energy, said Great Northern spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne.”
Even more grim? “Anybody want to buy a paper mill?” was the Feb. 19 headline at KXRO Newsradio in Grey’s Harbour, Ore. “Today is the day that Harbor Paper will officially be sold off piece-by-piece to the highest bidder. An auction will be held starting today at the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino for the facility. Included in the bidding will be auctions for individual parts such as furniture, tools, and the mirrors off the bathroom walls, although ‘Lot 1’ in the auction will be Harbor Paper in its entirety. Over 1,400 lots in all will be put up for bid.”
The announcement that the Corner Brook mill would continue to operate, thanks to government help, might be a bright light today for the region — but it’s more than a dark time in the industry.