Appvion sorts out job loss details in Appleton

Appvion and United Steelworkers Union representatives met Wednesday to begin discussing details of the paper company’s consolidation plan that will eliminate 200 jobs in Appleton

That number represents about one-quarter of Appvion’s local 800-employee workforce, and is part of a larger trend that worries paper industry watchers.

Appvion’s layoffs were first announced in a Nov. 9 story. It followed the company’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October.

“The first layoffs will occur in January and would continue as we transition most of our carbonless coating and converting operations to the Roaring Spring Mill (in Pennsylvania) during 2018,” said spokesman Bill Van Den Brandt. “We project that we will complete the transition process in third quarter 2018.”

A representative for United Steelworkers Union did not return calls asking for comment. About 175 of the 200 being laid off are union members.

The 200 job losses come on the heels of more than 600 jobs lost at Appleton Coated in Combined Locks. And U.S. Paper Converters announced it is closing in Grand Chute, eliminating 52 jobs. Appvion also outsourced its warehouse and distribution center on Appleton’s east side where 62 employees worked.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson said he is alarmed about the loss of paper industry jobs at the three companies.

He questioned spending $3 billion in state money to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin while the paper industry was taking a heavy hit.

Using state WARN notices showing 3,000 jobs lost in the state from August to October, he said the Fox Valley shouldered nearly 1,000 of those lost jobs.

“We have 3 1/2 percent of the population sustaining about one third of the state’s job losses. That’s massive. It’s overwhelming. Since the great recession, we haven’t been hit this hard. The job loss is heavy and concentrated,” he said.

He estimated that Outagamie County paper mills lost 40 percent of their employees in the last few months.

“Imagine what we could do with a tiny fraction of that ($3 billion Foxconn) outlay?” he said. “One penny on the dollar, $30 million. Think of how we could help area paper mills by making that money available to retool from white paper machines to brown paper production. For brown paper, the future is limitless. Amazon packages arrive on your doorstep in a brown paper box stuffed with brown paper.”

Appleton Coated was said to be in the initial stages of converting its machines to brown paper when it went into receivership and was sold to Industrial Assets Corp.
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