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Forum News Service, Published February 25 2013

Duluth paper mill lays off 5 percent of workforce

DULUTH, Minn. - Thirteen employees at NewPage paper mill in West Duluth have been laid off, the result of the company-wide reduction of 300 employees.

NewPage Corp., owner of the Duluth mill and seven other mills in the United States, is eliminating 300 of its 6,000 positions at its eight U.S. paper mills because of rising costs and declining demand for its paper products.

The layoffs follow the company’s emergence in December from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December. With the emergence, officials said the corporation had completed financial restructuring, reduced its debt, lessened its interest burden, achieved a strong balance and was ready to compete.

Each of the company’s locations is reducing its staff by 5 percent, according to Matt Christenson, communications coordinator at the Duluth mill. For Duluth, which had 282 employees before the layoffs, it resulted in the elimination of 13 hourly and salaried positions, he said.

“It’s basically the result of a decline in the demand in the industry and to ensure that our business is sustainable in the long term,” he said.

Those 13 employees were abruptly dismissed Feb. 19. They received severance packages, but Christenson said he wasn’t allowed to say what it entailed.

The mill’s employees are not unionized.

The Duluth mill, which began operations in 1987, makes paper used for catalogues, magazines, advertising inserts and other commercial paper. It also has recycled pulp mill that produces high-quality pulp from recovered paper.

These are the first layoffs at the Duluth paper mill since NewPage bought it in 2007, Christenson said.

In terms of staff size, the Duluth mill is the second-smallest of NewPage’s mills, according to the company’s website. A mill in Stevens Point, Wis., is smaller with approximately 255 employees before the reductions. The largest, in Escanaba, Mich., had 1,050 before the layoffs.