2012-08-16 / Front Page

Mill official gives update

1 year after turmoil, outlook is positive

MANISTIQUE – It’s been a year since Manistique Papers, Inc. filed for bankruptcy, ceased operations, and closed its doors to the community it had served for nearly 100 years. Despite a bleak outlook, efforts of the employees, state, and community ensured the company’s survival.

According to Jon Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of the mill, in the year since Manistique Papers was told by its out-of-state lender that it could no longer support the struggling business, the mill has powered through a turnaround.

“The mill has been running very well, and has been operating with a profit since emerging from bankruptcy on May 4,” he said. “Our new owners are happy with the way things have turned out.”

The mill’s new owners, the Watermill Group, had stepped up in April to purchase the company. Since that time, Johnson said the mill has made great strides in ensuring it will continue to be sustainable, not only for its buyers, but for its employees and the community as well.

As part of its action plan, the mill has, on top of its publicationgrade recycled paper, began producing packing material.

“We started producing the packing material last year when we started up after announcing the bankruptcy,” he said. “In June and July, this equaled 20 percent of our profit and is a great step in the right direction for the mill to be more flexible in the products it manufactures.”

The mill will also continue to look for ways to make its recycled paper more profitable, though prices of raw materials continue to rise, he added. Johnson also noted that the mill is exploring other areas as well.

“We are in the process of reviewing numerous investment opportunities to make us more cost competitive,” he said. “Some of these projects will be going into effect this fall.”

As for the employees of the mill, who Johnson said had stood by the company through all of the uncertainty of the past year, things are looking up.

“Moral has been getting much better,” he said. “People are still working a lot of hours, but, with this hiring, they will have the potential to get more time off. Overall, people are happy to be working, and continue to do their part to make this company a success.”

So far, the company has hired 12 people this year, Johnson said, and plans to hire more before the end of the year. In the meantime, the company will be doing everything in its power to move forward and make the best out of what could have become a devastating situation, he added.

“The outlook for the company is very promising for the upcoming year,” he said. “Hopefully, with the improvements we’ve been making … the company can continue to be profitable, in spite of high energy costs, and open up some new markets to place our product into.”

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