Paper360 - November/December 2009 - (Page 12)

PROUD TO BE A PAPERMAKER V E R S O P A P E R C O R P. Verso AWAKENS Maine KEN PATRICK An innovative campaign seeks to get state government to help keep the paper industry alive and thriving own ow problems as they come up, and typically ca not seeking help or support beyond the th company. A NEW APPROACH O One U.S. paper company, however, has set about to change that. Headquartered se in Memphis, TN, USA, with four mills and 11 paper machines operating in three an states, Verso Paper Corp., recently understa took a campaign to awaken the State of to Maine to its existence and to ask for help M and support to keep the paper industry a an alive, competitive, and thriving there. a ali To launch its campaign, Verso developed and distributed a comprehensive op brochure titled Maine on Paper, An inbr r dustry we can’t afford to lose, outlining du u both the things the industry does well bo and where it needs support to remain globally competitive. The publication was distributed to thousands of key people in Maine, including more than 200 federal, state, and local officials, plus representatives from academia, chambers of commerce, city managers, and various media across the state. Verso’s President and CEO Mike Jackson followed this with a press conference during which he discussed the industry’s problems directly with Maine Governor John Baldacci and other state and local officials. “We have much to be proud of,” Jackson says. “We’ve taken a direct strategy at the local community levels across Maine to tell our story and let people know what our industry brings to the party.” As the Verso brochure points out, “Some in Maine see pulp and paper as a dying industry, destined to go the way of shoes and textiles. That’s a mistake,” Jackson says. “While today there are fewer mills and workers than in the past, and many of the names have changed, Maine is producing more paper than at any time in its history.” Jackson also has been spending time in Washington, D.C., hand-in-hand with the AF&PA, talking with politicians about “the fact that this industry can provide a fantastic infrastructure and experience to foster the energy strategy our government is striving to develop and carry out. Many of our government representatives are unaware of either the industry’s employment base or its powerful message of renewability.” GOOD RESPONSE Jackson says that both Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins expressed strong interest in the Verso brochure. “They asked a lot of questions and were very complimentary of our efforts. Overall, the response has been very good. I was surprised at the number of people at the governor’s press conference, which typically lasts about five minutes. This one lasted almost 40 minutes. “People in Maine, I think, had never seen this sort of thing from the forest products industry, which historically has not been very vocal, prominent, or visible in the state. Nor have we been very good at asking for help. I guess it surprised them that we would admit to needing help, talk so straightforward about what we’ve done, and be so specific about how the state and others can help, said Jackson.” The help that Jackson refers to is spelled out in specific detail in the brochure, which focuses on issues related to energy, sustainability/certification, workforce development, environmental regulations, transportation, and the industry’s general cost structure. Each section outlines what Verso is doing to improve operations, costs, and efficiency, and details how Maine could help achieve some of the goals needed to keep mills operating and profitable. Jackson points out that other paper producers have now joined Verso in the Mike Jackson, Verso President and CEO h he environmentally t i t d i t ll tainted image of the paper industry has been changing in recent years, with the emerging emphasis on “green” and “renewable.” Paper mills today are beginning to be perceived as recyclers, users and even generators of bioenergy, and managers rather than consumers of forests, lands, and water resources. But for the most part, the struggling U.S. industry with its unique problems and continuing mill closures remains virtually invisible, not only to the general public but to politicians and government as well. As has been their practice since the Rittenhouse paper mill started up in Pennsylvania in 1690, paper companies have not historically interacted much with communities at any level. Except for paying taxes and participating in local charity drives, most paper mills generally keep to themselves, dealing with their T Paper360º November/December 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Paper360 - November/December 2009

Paper360 - November/December 2009
Over the Wire ... News Summary
Effluent Clean Enough to Drink
A Klass Act
Verso Awakens Maine
Twenty-Three Years of Bringing Students to the Industry
Marcal Rises From the Ashes
Buckeye Turns Lemon to Lemonade
Forty Years and "Still Doing It"
There's No Business Like Paper Business
Saving Energy at the Paper Machine
Low Alkali System Meets the Challenges of ONP/OMG Recycling
Around the Industry
Conquering Innovation Fatigue
Give Yourselves a Hand
Index of Advertisers

Paper360 - November/December 2009