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Paper industry officials optimistic about the future

by Monique Lopez, FOX 11 News

Thursday, September 20th 2018

APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- The paper industry has seen its share of challenges in recent years, but officials at a panel about how the paper industry is surviving the new economy said they’re optimistic about the future.

Wisconsin has excelled and thrived in this century-old industry, even today.

“Papermaking is strong, and this is an industry that is here to stay,” president of the Wisconsin Paper Council Scott Suder said. “It’s got a legacy that is strong, and it has a legacy that is going to continue far into the future.”

Wisconsin Paper Council members said Midwest Paper is doing well in its revitalization efforts, and Green Bay Packaging just broke ground on a $500 million mill August 2018.

“A lot of this industry was started out by families, and they’ve all sold out at this point in time,” said Green Bay Packaging VP of container board sales Jeff Walch. “We’re extremely fortunate that the Kress family has stayed active -- has stayed very actively involved -- and they’re still interested in growing the business.”

The job opportunities are vast, panelists said, but it’s the skillset that’s lacking.

“We need to find the best and brightest, and we need to work together with technical schools and colleges to make sure that we have that workforce that’s prepared for those new innovations and new opportunities that are occurring in the industry,” Suder said.

The Paper Science and Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point could potentially help with that.

“It’s really up to us to make sure that there are enough students to backfill that technical need in the industry, and keep the Wisconsin papermaking industry growing strong,” professor at UW-Stevens Point Karyn Biasca said.

“There’s a false perception that paper is not doing as well, but that is just absolutely false,” Suder said.

Other challenges brought up at Thursday’s discussion included issues of transporting materials, and the need to fill those jobs.

Michelle Berryman