Clearwater Paper closing Neenah plant

Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 10:38 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 7:14 PM CDT
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FOX CROSSING, Wis. (WBAY) - Clearwater Paper announced it’s closing the Neenah plant that employs almost 300 people as the company takes a new direction.

Clearwater Paper Company announced Tuesday it’s exiting the away from home tissue business by the end of July. The plant, which it acquired in 2010, is part of Clearwater’s consumer products division. It has three tissue machines and ten converting lines and makes tissue products for grocery and drug stores and commercial customers.

While the company calls the facility its Neenah Plant, the facility is physically located in Fox Crossing.

“Despite the best efforts of our dedicated employees, our Neenah location and assets cannot cost-effectively compete in the markets that we serve,” president and CEO Arsen Kitch wrote in the announcement. “We are committed to supporting our people through this challenging time.”

In the announcement, Clearwater said it’s meeting with the union this week. Clearwater said it’ll provide career assistance and work with the union and state employment -- that would be the Department of Workforce Development -- so workers receive training and other benefits to find other jobs.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson says a lot of questions remain unanswered.

“Are these jobs going someplace else? What kind of investments have they been making in this facility and probably the big point too is, are they going to impose a non compete clause that is going to hinder the ability of a buyer to come in and run that mill,” Nelson added.

While Action 2 News was at the plant on N. Lake St., a truck driver told us the plant refused his delivery.

In 2016, Clearwater laid off 85 Neenah employees as it shut down two of its highest-cost tissue machines. At the same time, it announced it was closing a plant in Oklahoma City that converted parent rolls of tissue into packaged products.

Workers say they will be paid through July 2nd.

Some also questioned the timing of the announcement since it was made on the same day the union’s contract was set to expire.

“It was kind of a shocker. No one really, if you talk to the employees that I talk to they didn’t see this coming,” said Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert.

Kaufert says he’s already reached out to both the governor’s office and WEDC, asking if anything can be done to persuade to the company, to keep the plant open, whether that involves state grants or tax credits.

“Maybe there’s a way we could retrofit that and they could make something else. Maybe we as a state could help them facilitate a change over to get into the cardboard business or something else that’s more viable,” he said just after the closure announcement.

The company has not said anything about its intentions for the property after the closure.

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