Although it is not a highly acclaimed nickname, being the world capital of toilet paper has its advantages. Green Bay, the capital of toilet paper, is located in Brown County (https://wedc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019-WI-Paper-Industry-Report.pdf) and its paper industry supports more than 6,000 jobs.
Even when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, and the sense of calamity triggered a massive reaction in which thousands of people stocked up on toilet paper, their industry kept still going strong.
“Our mill on Day Street is totally a retail product mill, so they have been continuing to run full speed ahead because the retail segment has always had strong sales throughout the pandemic,” says Mike Kawleski, a spokesman with Georgia-Pacific in Green Bay (https://www.gp.com/about-us/mill-sites/green-bay-wisconsin-operations).
The paper industry faces a pandemic-induced dichotomy in US, while the At-Home tissue shows a positive growth, the Away from Home keeps diving.
“We have consumer products like toilet paper, and Kimberly Clark is producing Depends, and all the things folks are using day in and day… are going like gangbusters,” says Missy Hughes, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (https://wedc.org/) “The school side of things, the office side of things, the retail catalogs and magazines, are really getting hit”.
This slowdown is one of the reasons attributed to the decision by Verso Corp. (https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/dislocatedworker/warn/2020/2020061001.pdf) from decommissioning its factory in Wisconsin Rapids and another in northern Minnesota. With companies closed and many types of advertising cut during closing, the company faced a “significant and unexpected decrease in customer orders”.
About 900 people worked at the factory that processes about 25% of the state’s pulpwood. Hughes says efforts are underway to find a way to keep the plant viable – including a cooperative arrangement.
Georgia-Pacific’s operations in Green Bay were not immune to the pandemic. The company made short-term layoffs for some of its employees when demand for Away from Home products declined.
However, Kawleski says the market is already showing signs of recovery: “Our operations have been in Green Bay for over 100 years and we anticipate that we will still be here for a long time.”