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NEWS STORIES

Rhinelander's Mayor cautiously optimistic mill buyer will keep plant openSubmitted: 03/22/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
lkimble@wjfw.com


RHINELANDER - We need to wait awhile to figure out how the sale of Wausau Paper's Rhinelander and Mosinee mills will really effect the communities.

But Friday night, we did find a sense of cautious optimism coming from city leadership.

Rhinelander Mayor Dick Johns worked at the paper mill from 1955 to 1994. He's seen plenty of changes at the plant over the years, including three separate sales.

That past experience keeps him hopeful for the future.

"Confident's not a good word, but I'm hoping that it will be," Johns said. "That's important to all of us. You know, we have PrintPack down on the other side of town, that's an improvement to our community and we're proud of that and we're proud of that paper company."

KPS Capital Partners in New York invested $130 million to buy the two Wisconsin mills.

They're offering Wausau Paper 25 percent ownership in the new paper company they plan to form. Wausau Paper claims the investment group has "significant experience" in the paper business.

Mayor Johns hopes KPS understands Rhinelander needs to keep its mill.

"Any industry in this day and age is important to the community, especially when it's over 100 years old, you've had it here and it's been a part of your community for those many years," Johns said.

The sale isn't official just yet. There are seveal steps to go through, including establishing a new collective bargaining agreement with the unions.

Wausau Paper hopes to wrap things up by the end of the second quarter this year.

KPS invested in Waupaca Foundry, Inc., based in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Just last month, Waupaca Foundry dolled out a $200 million return to investers.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

FLORENCE COUNTY - Driving through the Northwoods, you can see plenty of deer, cows, and horses… But bison? That's a little rarer.

Unless you travel to a ranch in Florence County, where the Rock family thinks they've tapped into a special and healthy food source.

Raising bison has always seemed normal to Michael Rock. His favorite is Badaxe, who is 25 years old.
"He became my baby and I feed him maple syrup and apples all the time, that's his favorite treat," said Michael.

But the Rock family knows their livestock are rare for these parts.

"We got into it for the health issues because now we know what we're eating," said David.
David started the business about 10 years ago. These days, the Rocks have around 130 bison on their Florence County ranch.

"For me this is enjoyment because I'm outside and I'm with my family. And I like to be outside and work with them on that," said David.

Two of the Rocks' four children live and work on the ranch.

"Being able to tell them what to do. I'm still the dad, so I rule the roost. They are a big help and they do have good ideas. You do have to watch the younger generation," said David.

Their daughter, Josie, and son, Michael, help with feeding and maintaining the herd.

"My favorite are the babies. The babies when they're younger, they like fighting and playing. And they'll just be running around and playing," said Josie.

But raising these animals isn't just about entertainment. In the 1800's, bison were almost killed off. Now, the Rocks hope to promote the animal's health benefits be carefully managing which ones go to be processed.

"Bison is about the only other meat out there that they can eat. It's healthier than chicken, it's healthier than salmon, pig, beef, anything. It's the top of the line," said Karen.

Raising an animal is a large project, one that Michael would like to do for a long time.

"I like bailing hay with the tractors, I like taking care of the animals. I have a future goal, to have big barns full of them," said Michael.

All of their meat is sent to the U. P. to a USDA approved facility and most of it stays local to the Midwest.

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WAUSAU - In less than two weeks, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to vote in the state's primary.

That's why former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is encouraging people to vote on August 9th.

He faces another democratic senate candidate Scott Harbach from Kenosha.

"I wouldn't say I'm nervous but I take nothing for granted," Feingold said at a Wausau event on Wednesday. 
"You should never take an election for granted and that's why we're working very hard at traveling all over the state this week to help people take advantage of early voting and if not to make sure they get out to vote on August 9th." 

If Feingold wins the election, he faces incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in November.

A recent Marquette University Law School poll shows Feingold leading. The link is posted below.

But Feingold said he doesn't want to get too hung up on the numbers.

"I don't want to get really serious about polling, that isn't the way that I've ever conducted myself," Feingold said. "What I do is go out to listen to people and find out directly not through polling what people are thinking and how they're feeling."

A third candidate named Phillip Anderson is also running for the same senate seat. He is a libertarian from Fitchburg.

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MADISON - Unemployment is down in nearly all Wisconsin cities and counties.

The state Department of Workforce Development reported Wednesday that unemployment rates decreased or remained the same in 29 of the state's 32 largest cities in June. The rates also went down or remained the same in all but four counties.

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RHINELANDER - This year seems to be off to a good start for the housing market here in Wisconsin.

A new report shows the first half of 2016 was the strongest since before the Great Recession of 2008.

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MADISON - House Speaker Paul Ryan won't be joining Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence at a Wisconsin rally.

Pence is slated to campaign Wednesday night in Ryan's home state. The rally in Waukesha is about 60 miles from Ryan's home in Janesville.

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MADISON - Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold tells The Associated Press that Donald Trump's latest comments show he is "an enormous threat to national security."

Feingold spoke Wednesday about Trump's comments urging Russia to find thousands of emails missing from Hillary Clinton's private computer server.

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WAUSAU - Wausau opened its doors to new students who traveled to study 7000 miles from home. Collaboration between multiple UW system schools, most notably UW Marathon County and UW Madison, and the Wausau School District created the Summer International Student Program for Chinese Students.

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