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What the Wausau Paper Brainerd Mill Closure Means for Wis. MillsSubmitted: 02/22/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

RHINELANDER - We found out yesterday a Wausau Paper mill in Brainerd, Minnesota will close. That's bringing the impending sale of the Rhinelander plant back to the forefront of many minds here in the Northwoods.

Many people aren't sure whether to be relieved or worried, so we spoke with a representative from the company today.

Wausau Paper expects the Brainerd mill to close by April. The company will try to sell the mill. But it will close first, and the town will lose about 130 jobs.

Director of Investor Relations Perry Grueber says the factors that led to the decision to close that mill are specific to Brainerd. He says there are specific differences between that mill, and the two Wisconsin mills up for sale.

"Both the Rhinelander and Mosinee mills are substantially larger operations with substantially larger workforces. They have far more diversified product offerings and have been very well established in the technical specialty market for many years. They are performing significantly better at the present time than Brainerd was," says Perry Grueber.

Brainerd's customers will still need to get their orders from somewhere. Grueber expects production for those products to move to Rhinelander or Mosinee. That should make those mills more appealing to buyers.

Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns hasn't heard of any serious interest yet.

But he and a group of other community leaders wrote a letter in a show of support for the city, and one of its biggest employers. They also asked Wausau Paper to keep the lines of communication open so the city and its people aren't kept in the dark.

"We just have to be patient and see where it goes. And I know it's hard for a lot of people in the community. There are families out there that want to know, 'Can I buy this? Can I do this? Can I do that?' But I'll tell you, with a positive attitude I think we can all come through it very well," says Mayor Johns.

He told us when news of the sale first broke, the City of Rhinelander would do whatever it could to help find a buyer, and keep the mill open.

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