PARK FALLS - Layoffs at Flambeau River Papers surprised and shocked the community of Park Falls on Friday. The history of industrial papermaking in the city goes back more than a century.
Eighty-two people are now out of a job at one of the city's biggest employers.
Nearly 300 people were employed at the mill before the layoff. In a town of just about 2,300 people, it's a big change. Executives say it was a financial decision to make the mill more viable in the long run, but for the people who lost their jobs, they're just trying to find out what to do now.
"I have five children. I have a 14, 13, 10, four and three-year-old," said former apprentice Paul Hyland.
Those children were the first ones Hyland thought of when he found out he lost his job at Flambeau River Papers on Friday.
"At the end of the day rent has to be paid, food on the table and that's my main concern," said Hyland.
The news came as a surprise to Hyland and many of the workers who lost their jobs.
"It was 2:00 on Friday and we were told to have our boxes packed and either take them home that evening or make arrangements to pick them up the next day," said Hyland.
But the decision was in the works for a while at Flambeau River Papers. Executives had been trying to find a way to keep the third line of the mill, which produced commodity grade paper, open and profitable.
But they fell short and had to make big decisions.
"We've been working on that for two months now and finally had to pull the trigger on that plan," said Director of Government Affairs and Public Relations Bill Johnson.
Now Flambeau River Papers will specialize in specialty or value added products, like colored paper and envelopes.
The company says the decision was financial. But the mill is more than just dollars and cents for the community, which relies heavily on the mill for jobs.
"The mill here is the lifeblood of Park Falls," said Johnson.
Mayor Daniel Leitl says the main concern of the community is helping the 82 people who lost their jobs get back on their feet. But the city itself benefits from the mill as well.
"Flambeau River Papers is our major water consumer, our water customer, so with the shutdown of that [line] they're using less water. That's less revenue to the city to cover our water bonds, to cover our infrastructure repairs," said Leitl.
Hyland agrees. He said he knows he will land on his feet, but the small, tight knit community as a whole is going to chance.
"Everything, whether its taxes, water bills, no matter what it is. Everything in this community is going to take a hit, everything," said Hyland.
Some workers might be hired back based on their seniority, but those decisions are still being made.