The State of Paper in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is the leading producer of paper products in the United States, which means that a large portion of the Wisconsin economy is reliant on the paper industry. At its peak, the WI paper industry had around 52 mills and provided around 52,000 jobs. Since 1994, however, 15 mills have closed and 20,000 jobs have been lost. Currently, 30,686 individuals are directly employed in one of Wisconsin’s 35 mills and a total of 140,000 are employed directly or indirectly. Additionally, the Wisconsin paper industry is producing more paper than it ever has in the past.

Since its peak around the year 2000, the paper industry in Wisconsin has felt the impact of changes in technology and demand due to the rise of the internet. This created a lower demand for books, newspapers, and magazines, but an increased demand for boxes and corrugated paper for shipping, and did not affect staple items like tissues, diapers, or toilet paper.

In addition to changes in technology, the industry has been affected by changes in ownership. Kimberly-Clark, Fort Howard, Wausau Paper, Wisconsin Tissue Mills, Nekoosa Paper, Consolidated Paper, Bergstrom Paper, Fox River Paper, George Whiting Paper, and Riverside Paper have all changed the location of their headquarters or have been bought by out of state companies. These changes make decisions about hiring, firing, closing, and growing less about Wisconsin residents and more about bottom lines. As a result, many of these mills are no longer in operation. Kimberly-Clark, now headquartered in Irving, TX, recently announced plans to close 2 Wisconsin mills, resulting in a loss of 600 jobs. NewPage, headquartered in Miamisburg, OH, also closed mills in Kimberly and Whiting, cutting nearly 1000 jobs between 2008 and 2011.