Franklin paper mill to close

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, October 22, 2009

FRANKLIN-International Paper Co. announced Thursday that its Franklin mill, which employs 1,100 people, will permanently close by spring.

“This is devastating news to our employees, devastating to their families and devastating to the community,” said Franklin Mill Manager Jeannine Siembida at a morning press conference.

Siembida said the company would also close containerboard mills in Pineville, La., and Albany, Ore., and permanently shut down a containerboard machine that is currently idle at its Valliant, Okla., facility. The closures will affect about 1,600 employees in all.

“We’ve had a great decline in the market with the global recession,” Siembida said. “Our sales are down 20 percent year over year. That’s a huge chunk of demand that has been taken out of our system. We’ve been managing this demand loss through the year with very costly downtime. (But) it has become clear to us that the market is not returning, so we’ve had to take a permanent reduction in capacity.”

According to IP, the shutdowns will collectively reduce the company’s North American paper and containerboard capacity by 2.1 million tons.

“It is not a reflection of the employees of this facility,” Siembida said. “We’ve done everything possible to make this a competitive facility. We are simply caught up in this global recession and the demand decline.”

Siembida said the company will begin shutting down the first paper machine at the Franklin mill on Nov. 7, and the remaining machines will be shut down in phases through the spring. She added that layoffs will begin “several weeks” after the initial machine shutdown, but an exact timetable for the layoffs had not yet been decided.

“I’m proud of the employees here. We have done everything possible that the company has asked us at this facility. We can honestly say that we have done everything that we can. We are just caught up in this global recession. We’re committed as a company to matching our supply with our customers’ demand. We simply can’t run if we don’t have orders to fulfill.”