Monday, January 04, 2016

Maine's once thriving paper mill industry struggling to stay afloat

Maine's once thriving paper mill industry "continued its downturn in 2015 in the face of closures, digitization, foreign competition and consolidation," Patrick Whittle reports for The Associated Press. "Remaining players in the industry, which has declined from 426 mills nationally in 2005 to 326 today, say adaptation to changing consumer trends is needed for survival."

Maine has less than half as many mills that it had in 1980, and the number of employees has dropped from 13,000 in the early 2000s to about 6,150 today, Whittle writes. "The paper industry is used to economic downturn, but 2015 was especially cruel to Maine papermaking, which was once a vital point of entry to middle-class life in the largely rural state. The bankrupt Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill was purchased after a November auction. Wisconsin-based Expera Specialty Solutions has also announced plans to shutter its Old Town facility. The closures affect Vermont, too, because many of the state's loggers had been selling their products in Maine."

While government regulations "and competition from places like China, Brazil, Germany and Finland, along with competition from iPhones and Androids," are blamed for the downturn, insiders say there "is still room in the marketplace for U.S.-made paper products like to-go coffee cups and the holiday packages used by online shippers," Whittle writes.

And despite the downturn, "American paper is still a huge business—the paper association said the industry's economic output was more than $217 billion in 2014, and it generates more than $50 billion in payroll annually," Whittle writes. "Maine ranked eighth in the nation in 2014 for paper and paperboard capacity." (Read more)

No comments: