HAWESVILLE, Ky. (WEHT) – About 400 workers with the Domtar Paper Mill in Hawesville are being temporarily laid off, as the company prepares to idle the mill.
The temporary shutdown will reduce Domtar’s uncoated freesheet paper production capacity by approximately 83,000 short tons.
In a statement, officials with Domtar said the decision was made due to ongoing business conditions created by the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The company says the temporary idling of the Hawesville mill will take effect on May 5, with a partial resumption of operations in June, and further resumptions in July.
“We regret that this temporary action will have an impact on our exceptional people and their families. We are doing everything we can to help them through this unprecedented period, and we have great confidence in the long-term strength and viability of our paper mills,” said Mike Garcia, President of Pulp and Paper division.
Temporary shutdowns are also taking place at other Domtar facilities in Kingsport, Tennessee and Ashdown, Arkansas.
Semis and other vehicles were still going in and out of the Hawesville Mill this afternoon. But starting May 5th, those workers won’t be able to go through those gates as production stops.
“It’s unwelcome news. Hopefully, they can get this out of the way in a few months and resume normalcy,” says Hancock Co. Judge Executive Johnny Roberts Jr.
Domtar Communications and Government Relations Manager Tammy Waters says the idling is due to changes in the market caused by the pandemic. Recent closures of businesses, and schools are causing less demand for copy paper and other products made at the mill.
“The demand for Domtar’s paper has dropped off significantly at universities and businesses and schools remained closed,” she explained.
“Consumer spending hits the retail first, then the wholesaler, then it hits the manufacturer. I would guess that is typical of a 30-day cycle,”adds Mike Baker of the Hancock Co. Industrial Foundation.
Judge Roberts says the idling also means a loss of $50,000 for at least a month in occupational taxes at a time when the county is working on its upcoming budget. He adds closures and other pandemic related problems make it hard to project what the county economy will look like later this year.
“What makes it so tough is even looking out to September, October, the visibility is so limited in regards to employment and business, even the national economy,” he said.
As for restarting production, Domtar officials say they’ll restart one of their paper machines in June and restart the other in July.
(This story was originally published on April 28, 2020)
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