Northeast Wisconsin and the paper industry share an inextricable link. I still remember the elementary school trip I took to tour a paper plant and how cool it was. The tradition continues. Last year, my youngest son was excited to visit Appleton’s Paper Discovery Center and make his very own paper.
The industry, though, has faced challenges over the past several years. Kimberly-Clark Corp. closed its Neenah plant, and the fate of its Cold Spring plant remains unknown. U.S. Paper Converters shuttered last year, and Appvion has faced myriad setbacks, including employees losing millions in retirement savings.
Despite the adversity, a brighter picture is emerging. Construction is underway on the new Green Bay Packaging paper mill. It’s the largest private investment ever made in Brown County, and leaders say the project will prove transformative for the regional economy.
Appleton Coated has made a remarkable turnaround. Now known as Midwest Paper Group, the company has responded to consumer trends and switched from manufacturing white writing paper to making brown paper used in packaging (think millions upon millions of Amazon boxes). All three paper machines are up and running, and the company has hired back 300 of its 600 employees. Check out Insight Editor MaryBeth Matzek’s cover story to read about all the good news in the industry.
Speaking of success, this year’s Manufacturing First Expo & Conference was a big one. The one-day event drew record attendance, and several people stopped me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Keynote speaker Bob Chapman captivated the audience with his message of Truly Human Leadership, and Power Hour, with its chance to win cash and prizes, proved to be a big draw. I wasn’t eligible to win a trip into First Business Bank’s Cash Cube, but if any of you winners want to share your haul with me, you know where to find me. Flip to our feature on the event for a full recap and photos.
The NEW Manufacturing Alliance presented its Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnerships Awards in October. This month’s education story highlights some of the winners, including a program that shows middle-schoolers how “This Girl Can.” It’s inspiring to see how manufacturers and the education community continually find new ways to collaborate.
This will be the last IOM before the holidays. Enjoy the time with your loved ones, and I’ll see you in 2019!