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Wausau Paper to close Brokaw mill


MOSINEE, Wis. (WSAU) – Wausau Paper will sell off its premium print and color brands and will close its mill in Brokaw by the end of March, putting 450 people out of work.

The company has agreed to sell the Astrobrights, Astroparche and Royal family product lines to Neenah Paper. The sale is expected to close January 31, 2012.

“The employees of the Print and Color business have done all that has been asked and this closure is in no way a reflection of their skill, talents or determination to return this business to acceptable levels of profitability,” Wausau Paper president and CEO Tom Howatt said in a statement.

“Unfortunately it's just the market environment that those products are facing just doesn't support the print and color business going forward,” director of investor relations and company spokesman Perry Grueber added in a phone interview.

Officials will meet with union leaders to discuss future prospects for hourly employees at the mill, Grueber said. He added that employees could apply for other jobs within the company but do not have the right to transfer.

Wausau Paper had been considering its options for several months. The mill has been operating at a financial loss since 2002, according to an internal July 12th memo from Brokaw general manager Jeff Verdoorn.

WSAU News received the memo from an anonymous sender and later confirmed its authenticity with Grueber.

The memo spelled out 16 layoffs in July – eight each at the mill and the company's corporate office. It also detailed how the company had closed its Groveton, New Hampshire mill and Appleton converting center in recent years and consolidated print and color operations at its mills in Brokaw and Brainerd, Minnesota.

But even with the consolidation, the Brokaw mill had to reduce its operating schedule.

The Brokaw mill has been around since the company started in 1899, according to the Wausau Paper Web site. Grueber said the company will comply with environmental regulations in closing down the facility and trying to find a buyer for it.

The 450 jobs that will be lost more than wipe out recent job gains in the Wausau area over the last two weeks. The Massachusetts tech firm Collaborative Consulting said it plans to add 200 jobs over the next three years with the creation of a software development and testing center in Wausau. And West Business Services said last week it plans to hire 100 employees for inbound and outbound phone sales work at its Wausau facility.