About 290 Clearwater Paper employees at the company’s Neenah, Wis., tissue plant are being laid off as the company closes the factory indefinitely by the end of July.
It’s not clear how likely it is that the plant will reopen.
“What I can tell you right now (is) we’re just talking about the indefinite closure of the mill,” Clearwater Paper spokeswoman Shannon Myers said after the Tuesday announcement. “There are updates we will have at a later time.”
The decision is part of a strategy to discontinue making tissue products for Neenah’s customers, which include businesses, schools and other institutions, according to a news release.
“Despite the best efforts of our dedicated employees, our Neenah location and assets cannot cost-effectively compete in the markets that we serve,” Clearwater Papers President and CEO Arsen Kitch said in the news release.
The company indicated it plans to work closely with Wisconsin state agencies and a union that represents most of the employees at the plant that has been a part of Clearwater Paper since 2010. That effort will involve helping the people who are out of work to find jobs, get training and receive benefits.
“This was a difficult decision because it affects our people, their families and the Neenah community,” Kitch said.
Unlike in Neenah, the tissue manufactured in Lewiston is sold under store brands at a variety of retailers. The Lewiston site is also significantly larger, employing about 1,300 people, and in addition to tissue, makes pulp and paperboard used for items such as paper containers and dishware.
What is happening in Neenah is not related to a plan to have temporary downtime this spring, Myers said. That plan was shared by Kitch during his May remarks about the company’s performance in January, February and March, when it had a net income of $12 million.
Demand is weak as consumers use the tissue products, like toilet paper, they stockpiled earlier in the pandemic, and Clearwater Paper executives want to avoid manufacturing inventory the company doesn’t need.
The company hasn’t released additional details about the downtime since Kitch’s May comments.
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