NewPage Corp. announced late last week that it had retained the services of an investment banking firm to help sell a paper mill it owns in Kimberly, Wis., near Appleton.
But the company has ruled out selling the facility to any of its direct competitors, stating in a press release that its marketing efforts “will be focused on companies who are interested in manufacturing non-coated products that do not directly compete with the current portfolio of printing papers offered by NewPage…”
NewPage spokeswoman Shawn Hall explained that the company already has been taking down its production of coated paper from other facilities in response to a market that’s already oversaturated. The NewPage mill in Duluth ceased production for four days last week to reduce the glut of coated paper now on the market.
Still, NewPage’s caveat about not selling the mill to other producers of coated papers doesn’t sit well with Jim Dercks, one of about 600 laid off millworkers from the Kimberly plant, which ceased production in September 2008.
“It makes me question how serious they really are about selling the mill,” he said, explaining that the plant is designed and equipped to produce coated papers, and that’s where the facility’s greatest value lies.
“We want them to change their position on that,” Dercks said.
Toward that end, Dercks and 13 other millworkers from Kimberly arrived in New York City today and plan to begin demonstrating Tuesday in front of the Manhattan offices of Cerberus Capital Management — the investment firm that owns NewPage.
“They’re not too glad to see us out here, but that’s okay,” Dercks said. “We weren’t too glad when they came to our town either.”
NewPage acquired the Kimberly mill in October 2007, as part of a $2.1 billion deal with Stora Enso Oyj, the Finnish paper giant. That transaction involved the sale of seven other mills, as well, including a facility in Duluth.
Andy Nirchl, president of United Steelworkers Local 2-9, which represents most of the workers at the Kimberly mill, described the facility as a quick, efficient modern plant that has benefited from millions of dollars of improvements in recent year.
“For this [the shutdown] to happen, kind of blindsided us,” he said.
Severance benefits for workers laid off at the Kimberly mill ran out at the beginning of April.
Nirchl considers New Page’s hiring of Sanabe & Associates LLC to help market the mill a positive sign.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s like putting a ‘For Sale’ sign in front of the mill. But we would like them to open it up to more potential buyers.”
Nirchl noted that it would tough to replace the jobs lost at the Kimberly mill. At one point in the late 1990s, the facility employed about 1,100 people.
“The main thing is to get the mill up and running again,” he said.