Trade group representing Maine pulp and paper industry folds

A group that has represented the interests of Maine’s pulp and paper industry for 50 years has folded.

In its Jan. 13 newsletter, the Maine Pulp & Paper Association announced that it is disbanding, citing the lack of financial resources to keep it going.

“As the number of Maine pulp and paper mills have decreased, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain sufficient membership to financially support MPPA,” wrote association Chairwoman Donna Cassese of Sappi Fine Paper North America. “We appreciate the financial contributions provided by all of our members over the past 50 years, but we simply do not have enough current support to continue our mission.”

The organization was sustained by dues from its members, including the state’s paper mills, logging contractors, equipment providers and others in the paper industry supply chain. Its president, John Williams, stepped down in December 2014 and wasn’t replaced.

In its 2013 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, the organization reported $161,500 in dues. In its 2015 report, that number had shrunk to $17,000.

The dwindling membership reflects seismic changes that have affected the industry. Demand for glossy publishing paper – the kind made at several Maine mills – has declined as people’s reading habits changed. Global competition has cut Maine mills’ market share in other product lines.

Paper companies employed more than 5,700 in 2011, but lost more than 2,300 jobs in five years with the closing of mills in Bucksport, Old Town, East Millinocket, Lincoln and Madison.

Despite the lack of paid staff, the organization held an industry summit in 2015 that was attended by 250 people. From that summit a number of policy changes were identified and members were working to implement them in various forums such as the paper caucus at the Maine Legislature, participating in a federal assessment team that is trying to direct resources to revive the industry, and working with Gov. Paul LePage’s staff, according to the newsletter.
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