As society sheds paper, an industry shrinks

  • Article by: ADAM BELZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 20, 2012 - 10:03 AM

Mill towns in Minnesota and the nation are seeing part of their economic foundation start to crumble.

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comment1000Nov. 18, 12 2:52 AM

Is this not we have always wanted? No more cutting down trees? This was the goal was it not?

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iaminagNov. 18, 12 4:02 AM

The demand for paper is simply declining resulting in a structural change for the industry. Add in increased productivity in this industry and the number of jobs required in paper making will continue to decline. Workers impacted by this structural change should seek jobs in other industries. The oil industry in N. Dakota certainly comes to mind. The Calgary Sun reported yesterday that the oil industry in Alberta is seeking to recruit "thousands" of workers in the US with a focus on ex-US military. The Alberta Energy Minister Hughes is reportedly working with US Ambassador Jacobson on recruiting efforts. The Calgary Sun is reporting

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punky2012Nov. 18, 12 4:36 AM

This normal change. 110 years ago the horse and buggy industry was thriving. How is it doing today? One day the oil industry will meet its demise as well. It's the result of technological change. And it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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gahaugenNov. 18, 12 5:55 AM

Hooray! Now if we finally show a bit of foresight and allow the use of industrial hemp, we can rid ourselves of this dirty, destructive, industry once on for all.

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stimpsjdNov. 18, 12 6:00 AM

This story fails to touch on an important point. Having been in printing paper-related industries for over 15 years, the issue is not a reduction in demand. The issue is imports and pricing. All of the obvious factors are at play, labor costs, healthcare costs, transportation, and environmental challenges. Import mills, specifically those in China are state-of-the-art and are able to make paper that rivals that coming from North American mills. Part of the difference is that the Chinese are able to take lower quality raw material and turn it into quality paper. Has anyone ever wondered where all of that recycled paper goes? Well, when the containers of electronics, toys, clothing, etc. come from China and get unloaded in the US, those containers go back to China filled with recycled papers and board. The US paper industry has tried to combat this by introducing two sustainability marks, FSC and SFI to ensure that the paper is coming from sustainable forestry, etc. This mark though does not offset the huge price difference. An example...just had a paper supplier come to me and tell me that he could save us 20-30% by switching our, what I'll call, "Band-Aid Box paper" to a foreign sheet. Same if not better quality. It's from China. I can't run it because my plant is SFI certified, but one of my competitors will and they will take business because of it.

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ninetyninerNov. 18, 12 9:01 AM

I'd call that progress. Now we don't have to clear cut our forests and "manage" our forests to make paper. You can thank the computer for that.

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bleavitNov. 18, 1210:07 AM

If your business is being threatened by the information age, don't fight them - join them. With the hydro-electric power available I would build data centers on these former paper mill sites. Google did that in The Dalles, Oregon with an old aluminum plant.

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ruphinaNov. 18, 1211:23 AM

Of course, less logging for paper has other consequences. It will cause deer and snowshoe populations to fall as the forests age. Wolves will turn even more to moose or livestock. Then the wolves will start to decline. Lawsuits will fly, wolves, moose, and deer will keep declining, and the geniuses that run things will respond by "preserving" things with reduced hunting and no logging. It won't help, but the solution of finding ways to use large quantities of wood for a useful product will be ignored because we will be too distracted by the wolf lovers, moose lovers, and tree huggers. Bill G.

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ruphinaNov. 18, 1211:27 AM

How about sawing all that aspen and poplar into boards to build 30" thick solid wood wall frame houses? The wall would have an R value of 30, and the house would sequester tons of carbon for hundreds of years. Bill G.

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paulskiNov. 18, 1212:26 PM

punky, I was going to say the same thing, the comparison to the buggy builders, but you beat me to it. I feel bad for those losing their jobs, but it's like the old country song, life's about changes, nothing stays the same.

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