August 17, 2008

NewPage Corp. Plans Temporary Shutdown

By Eileen M. Adams

RUMFORD - Up to 500 NewPage production workers and an unknown number of salaried employees may be without work for two weeks beginning late next month.

Tony Lyons, spokesman for NewPage Corp.'s Rumford paper mill, said Thursday afternoon that all three paper machines, the pulp mill, and the pulp dryer will be shut down from Sept. 22 through Oct. 6.

"We're not sure who will be impacted. There will be some skeleton crew," he said, adding that employees who will be affected will be known late next week.

The shut down is part of a previously scheduled rebuild of the mill's co-generation turbine. That project, expected to run from Sept. 7 through Oct. 9, had been planned for at least a year, said Lyons.

Regular maintenance and work on the mill's power boiler system will be conducted while the turbine is down, he added.

Because the mill produces about 90 percent of its electricity, and that won't be produced during the rebuild, mill administration decided not to produce the nearly 22,000 tons of paper that would normally be manufactured during the six-week maintenance period. He declined to provide a value for that paper.

He said mill customers will not be impacted by the hiatus in production because of existing inventory. The mill will continue to accept wood deliveries during the shut down.

The high cost of electricity, together with the difficulty of acquiring wood and its high cost, contributed to the decision.

Lyons said 500 people are in production, 200 are salaried, and about 300 are in maintenance. Maintenance employees will stay on the job during the down time.

"We continue to see a very volatile coated paper market," said Lyons, adding that orders are down at NewPage as well as at other mills. "The company is doing what it can do to balance supply and demand."

The mills have also been dealing with higher fuel costs.

Lyons said no permanent lay-offs are expected once the turbine rebuild is completed.

Quarterly earnings changed significantly between the end of the first and second quarters for the Miamisburg, Ohio-based company. It owns nine mills nationwide.

The recent closure of a NewPage-owned paper mill in Kimberly, Wis., may beneficially affect the production of the remaining mills, Lyons said.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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