Green Bay Innovation Group

Combined Locks Paper Mill Sold

Combined Locks Paper Mill Sold

COMBINED LOCKS (WLUK) — A Fox Valley paper mill has been sold.

McKinley Paper Company, a U.S. subsidiary of Mexico-based Bio PAPPEL, announced the purchase of Midwest Paper Group from investment fund IOP. Terms of the deal were not announced.

Midwest Paper Group makes packaging-grade paper at its mill in Combined Locks. The mill has a capacity to produce 500,000 tons per year.

“The acquisition of Midwest Paper Group is consistent with our business strategy to continue building a powerful integrated paper and packaging company, convinced that North America is the best region to invest and create shared value over the long term,” Bio-PAPPEL board chairman Miguel Rincón said in a news release. “We enrich our culture and competitiveness by warmly welcoming the people of Midwest Paper operations into the Bio PAPPEL- McKinley family.”

Midwest Paper is the former Appleton Coated mill that made printing and writing-grade paper until it closed in 2017. The next year, it was converted to be able to produce packaging-grade paper.

State tax credits covered $1.8 million of the $30 million conversion cost.

Discerning Talent in Challenging Times: Why HR Needs to Look Beyond Skill Set 

Discerning Talent in Challenging Times: Why HR Needs to Look Beyond Skill Set 

Competition for labor is intense. In the nationwide Great Resignation, workers left their jobs by the millions. Baby Boomers also exited the workforce. “Help Wanted” signs are posted everywhere. In many instances, as quickly as a candidate accepts a job, another resigns or retires from the company. In today’s tight labor market, hiring managers and HR professionals struggle with the unenviable task of finding workers. When job candidates are identified, it becomes particularly important to assess talent accurately and efficiently, matching job candidates to the roles where they’ll excel. With so many employees exiting the workforce, new hires will be asked to adapt and advance quickly to fill the gaps. 

What is the difference between skills and abilities? 

Although skill sets are one of several predictors of job performance, they are not the best indicator. Abilities are. Abilities are classes of behaviors established early in life and relatively stable; they are resistant to change. Skills on the other hand are other classes of behavior built on or developed from abilities and are not stable; they wax and wane. 

An example of an ability is mechanical ability and an example of a skill based on mechanical ability is troubleshooting. People who have high verbal ability often develop skill as writers or editors. The abilities and skills graphic below provides additional examples of the relationship between some abilities and their related skill. 

Skills often vary widely because of a candidate’s life experiences. Even when an applicant has a particular skill related to a job opening, the candidate may not be a good fit for the job, because a combination of other skills will be required. Skills are more difficult to determine or assess because they typically require some demonstration of behavior. Examples of measurable, observable behaviors that involve skill include replacing a bearing on worn equipment or proofreading a blog article. If skill assessment is not done in a consistent, controlled fashion, the reliability of the data gathered can vary widely. Skills can also vary due to use or non-use. If someone learns French, but does not speak or write French, their skills will wane. The same is true for a skill such as driving or putting a golf ball. Golfers often find their putting stroke or driving skill is rusty at the start of a golf season. 

In the changing world of manufacturing, assessing job skills that will change dramatically is folly. Abilities on the other hand are the foundation to build the needed skills for the future. What we need to do is to look for and select manufacturing operators and maintenance personnel based on their underlying abilities. 

How do ability and skill relate to employee selection?  

If you select candidates who demonstrate the abilities for an open role, you’re hiring candidates with a solid foundation. They are likely to perform well in their initial role with the company and successfully advance into new roles. The employee has the underlying ability to perform well across-the-board.  

Having the means to discern and accurately measure abilities in these times where it’s difficult to find needed talent is therefore critically important. Organizations should assess abilities accurately and efficiently, matching job candidates to the role requirements where they’ll excel. The necessary skills will be built on the foundation of abilities. 

We at 15dots use a sophisticated job analysis tool called a Positional Analysis Questionnaire to identify and confirm the abilities associated with a given job role. 15dots has analyzed over 30,000 jobs, mainly in manufacturing settings. Obviously, certain jobs require specific abilities. For example, to be proficient in troubleshooting, individuals need mechanical ability, in addition to several other abilities. They also need the ability to visualize the process or equipment they’re troubleshooting from all perspectives. Someone who possesses mechanical ability can more readily learn to trouble-shoot equipment and machinery. They adapt more easily to working on different equipment. Essentially, they possess the foundation to learn skills that require mechanical ability. 

How does 15dots help ensure the best hire? 

15dots trains organizational personnel to administer ability tests and moves organizational personnel at all levels toward interviewing expertise. Rock-solid employee selection identifies and maximizes the potential of a company’s most valuable resource – people. Identifying a candidate’s potential through validated ability tests – not skill set alone – is a strong predictor of job performance now and in the future. 

Although hiring managers and HR personnel face challenging times in today’s economy, hiring decisions have consequences.

 Competency or skill set matter less than an underlying, all-around ability to perform well.  

Contact Joe Nowlin, or (812) 332-1102 to learn how employee selection is the key to hiring highly motivated, highly able employees – even with a limited pool of applicants.  


GBIG News Paper Industry Update Marty Ochs

What Happened to The Paper Industry in Wisconsin, The USA And Overseas Suppliers?

The printing industry is feeling the FULL effect of the current paper and supply chain crises. We have never seen anything like it. Over the years, we have seen a shortage of printing papers, especially from Wisconsin, with paper companies moving production into liner board and closing some mills that were not productive. We see companies like International Paper exit the printing paper markets. 

In 2020, we saw a major decline of 20 percent in the offset printing markets due to COVID-19. In 2021 and early 2022, we have seen the market gain momentum with surprising surge in demand for paper printing grades market along with very good demand in the packaging paper products markets. 

There are BIG challenges for the printing industry, and paper merchants are on strict allocations on all paper products. We will see a large number of the smaller printing companies simply go out of business. The printers can’t absorb paper costs going up 20 to 35 percent plus freight up 15 to 20 percent and ink costs up 10 to 20 percent. 

We have not seen any new paper machines for the past 40 years for the printing paper in the USA.  Simply, the USA has become dependent on the foreign paper mills to fill the gap for paper. However, the foreign mills are shutting down capacity, and the cost for shipping, along with a lack of containers available to ship paper to the USA, is problematic. We see container prices at $20,000 plus! 

Our current outlook is that we will not see anything fundamentally changing for 2022, with it easing up a bit for 2023. We expect all of the mills to try to meet the challenges in front of them.  Foreign paper makers are minor players at this point in time. 

This is a great opportunity for the former VERSO mill in Wisconsin Rapids to reopen to produce more paper. However, BillerudKorsna has indicated that they will sell the mill. In addition, BillerudKorsna will be converting two machines into packaging board products. The Wisconsin Rapids mill has a huge capacity for coated printing paper, with a tremendous opportunity for an American supplier to produce these products. 

Unfortunately, SAPPI and other foreign paper mills are not able to fill the gap for 2022-2025. We need to reach out to the 5P and Converting Industries to support more paper and pulp capacity based in Wisconsin! Why, this will really hurt the Printing Industry in Wisconsin and the Midwest dependent on printing papers. 

We are seeing these decisions are having a big impact on the Wisconsin Converting plants that focus on paper products with long lead times and NO paper. Wisconsin has over 200 converters with an estimated employment of over 10,000 employees who are directly affected. Wisconsin is called the Converting Corridor in the USA. The Wisconsin Printing Industry has over 30,000 employees. GBIG will be compiling the number of employees in the label, corrugated and packaging industries over this coming year to educate all of us on the impact of the 5P and Converting Industries on Wisconsin.

The major issues are:

  1. COVID-19 has had a major impact on their production capacity
  2. Simply, demand exceeds supply, especially for printing grades of paper
  3. The foreign mills can’t fill the gaps, due to logistics and supply for their own customers
  4. The USA paper mills, especially the Wisconsin paper mills, have shut down mills over the past 20 years due out-of-date equipment or NO market for their products.
  5. Labor shortages. Employees, especially skilled technical individuals, are needed to replace a large number of individuals retiring from the industry. We are seeing the graying of America. The population is steadily becoming older without being replaced by younger people.
  6. Paper merchants are experiencing strict paper allocations with allocations being cut back, too.
  7. The lack of investment into the paper industry, and USA companies are focused on short-term profit.
  8. The challenges of opening a new mill with strict environmental requirements placed on them.
  9. The cost of transportation in Wisconsin and limits on the trucking industry weight limits.
  10.  We are fortunate to have BPM, Inc. in Peshtigo and former Domtar Paper Mills in Wisconsin. Pixelle Specialty Solutions has a mill in Stevens Point. They are the largest and fastest-growing manufacturer of specialty paper in North America. Ahlstom-Munksjo with paper manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin is a global leader in fiber-based materials supporting the packaging industries with USA headquarters in Kaukauna.  Paper Excellence has purchased two of the former Domtar Paper Mills in Wisconsin, and we can’t anticipate their future.
  11. The paper companies are focused on profitability, producing high volume items with NO interest in producing a wide variety of paper as in the past, limiting or discontinuing the selection of paper products. 
  12. The paper mills are being converted to liner board, tissue or packaging products which are in high demand.
  13. Supply chain back-up for chemicals, coating, pulp, etc. are hurting the production of paper and increasing prices. 
  14. We will see long lead times with paper delivery over the next year.  We see the transportation and logistics as a big issue, especially with the supply of paper from overseas. In addition, our ports are backed up with a lack of transportation and drivers in the USA. 
  15. The investment in building new paper manufacturing facilities is very expensive. Green Bay Packaging has over $500 million in its new plant. However, we are seeing paper and pulp mills opening up across the world, so Wisconsin has to get back on track with get new or updated plants to meet ALL of our demand for paper products.

Billerudkorsnas Year-end report January–December 2021

Year-end report January–December 2021

Strong fourth quarter to end a successful 2021  


  • 15% net sales growth
  • Strong production in the quarter
  • Record-high earnings for 2021
  • Another strong cash flow delivery
  • The Board of Directors proposes a dividend of SEK 4.30 per share


  • Net sales grew by 15% to SEK 6 688 million (5 803). Currency effects had a marginal impact on net sales
  • Adjusted EBITDA* increased to SEK 1 075 million (568), corresponding to an adjusted EBITDA margin of 16% (10%)
  • Operating profit was SEK 418 million (163), including items impacting comparability of SEK      -177 million (73)
  • Net profit was SEK 320 million (242)
  • Earnings per share amounted to SEK 1.55 (1.17)


  • Strong market conditions expected to prevail
  • Higher costs for logistics, energy, and chemicals
  • Marginally increased pulpwood prices and good fibre availability
  • Continued focus on mix, efficiencies and price management to counteract cost inflation

Comments by the CEO

The fourth quarter was another quarter of solid growth and strong performance, driven by strong market conditions. Higher prices, product mix improvements, continued cost program delivery and productivity increases offset cost inflation for logistics, chemicals and energy in the fourth quarter. Net sales excluding currency effects and adjusted for Beetham, which was divested on 31 October 2021, increased by 17%. The adjusted EBITDA margin was 16% and the cash flow generation continued to be strong.  

In the year 2021 we made important progress. Both the injury frequency rate (LTIFR) and the overall production stability improved, despite two major unplanned production stops in Gävle. Our net sales excluding currency effects grew by an impressive 12% and adjusted EBITDA were the highest in the company’s history. Operating profit strengthened and the net debt decreased. The Board of Directors proposes a dividend for the year of SEK 4.30 per share, which corresponds to 60% of the net profit.

As communicated at our capital markets day in November, we have set a strategy for profitable growth to 2030. Whilst Europe will still be our home market, we see great opportunities for growth in North America, specifically with cartonboard and containerboard. We will accelerate growth in liquid packaging board with selected opportunities. For sack and kraft paper we will continue to improve mix by focusing on the most profitable applications. All areas are supported by innovation where we are enhancing the impact and relevance to our core business. To achieve our ambitions, production needs to be highly efficient, and therefore, we will increase investments in mill maintenance and development. To secure a competitive wood supply we aim to optimize fibre consumption, build long term sourcing partnerships, secure competitive fibre availability and build a lean, green and flexible supply chain.

The merger agreement with Verso that was announced in December is fully in line with this strategy. Verso will mean a platform for expansion in North America, creating growth opportunities for the next ten years and beyond. We will continue to serve the existing customers while sequentially converting two paper machines into board machines. We will thereby create one of the most cost-effective paperboard production structures in North America. The combination of BillerudKorsnäs’ expertise in high-quality packaging products and Verso’s attractive assets in a region with abundant and competitive fibre supply will form one of the largest companies in primary fibre packaging and paper with both quality and cost advantages. We expect the transaction to be completed in the second quarter of 2022.

Going into 2022 we expect the strong market conditions to prevail in the near future. We will continue to gradually increase board volumes and improve the sales mix. We foresee good availability of fibre and marginally increased wood costs. However, we anticipate logistic costs to increase, mainly due to overheated oversea shipping markets and higher fuel prices for road transports. We also expect costs for energy and chemicals to rise. To counteract the cost inflation, we will continue to focus on price and mix management and improved efficiencies.

Our priorities for 2022 are to continue to deliver our strategy in commercial, operations and wood supply, as well as to close the deal with Verso and deliver the integration work. For the past year, I would like to thank all customers, employees and other stakeholders for your support.

Christoph Michalski
President and CEO

The quarter in review


Net sales for the fourth quarter grew by 15% to SEK 6 688 million (5 803), driven by higher prices and an improved product mix. Net sales excluding currency effects increased by 15%. The Beetham mill, which was divested on 31 October 2021, had sales of SEK 78 million in the period November–December 2020.

Adjusted EBITDA increased to SEK 1 075 million (568). The strengthened earnings were a result of higher prices, improved product mix and productivity, and continued delivery under the cost and efficiency program. Cost inflation for logistics, energy and chemicals had an adverse effect.

Items affecting comparability amounted to SEK -177 million (73) and included the negative result from the divestment of Beetham of SEK 123 million (–), acquisition-related costs of SEK 135 million (–), and the positive result of revaluation of biological assets in the associated company BSÖ Holding AB Group of SEK 81 million (73).


During the fourth quarter of 2021, market conditions for all product segments were strong. Implemented price increases had effect across all segments in paperboard and sack and kraft paper.

The market outlook for the next quarters is positive. The strong market conditions are expected to prevail. Higher costs for logistics, energy and chemicals are anticipated and will need to be compensated by further price increases in the quarters to come.  


Annual maintenance was carried out at Frövi and Skärblacka under extensive precautionary measures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The total maintenance shutdown costs in the fourth quarter amounted to SEK 284 million.

On 31 October, it was announced that BillerudKorsnäs had agreed with the British investment firm Inspirit regarding the divestment of the Beetham mill and that the transaction was completed the same day. The strategic importance of Beetham to the rest of the group had been reduced since the machine glazed (MG) paper business was focused to Skärblacka. The divestment of Beetham resulted in a negative result effect of SEK 123 million in the fourth quarter results.

On 17 November, BillerudKorsnäs presented a new strategy to 2030 at a capital markets day. It was announced that the strategy for profitable and sustainable growth in packaging materials focuses on attractive markets with good growth opportunities and product segments where the company has strong abilities to compete. New opportunities will be explored, specifically for paperboard in America, and possibilities to increase capacity at existing facilities or via mergers and acquisitions will be evaluated. Operational efficiency will be critical to maximise the growth opportunity, and therefore, investments in maintenance and development of the mills will increase to SEK 1.5-1.7 billion on an annual basis for the current mills. Transformation towards a professional sourcing organisation for wood supply is an integral part of the strategy.  

On 20 December, it was announced that BillerudKorsnäs had entered into a merger agreement with Verso Corporation (Verso), according to which BillerudKorsnäs had agreed to acquire Verso for a cash consideration of approximately USD 825 million. Verso is a leading producer of coated papers in North America. The company has paper mills in Midwestern U.S., strategically located in a region with abundant and cost-effective fibre supply. For the last twelve months ended 30 September 2021 Verso’s net sales amounted to USD 1 264 million, and the adjusted EBITDA was USD 158 million. The company has around 1 700 employees.

BillerudKorsnäs aims to convert Verso’s largest facility, the Escanaba mill, into a world-class, integrated paperboard production site and thereby build one of the most cost-efficient and sustainable paperboard platforms in North America. One machine is estimated to be converted to board production by 2025 and a second machine by 2029. The investment for the conversion is estimated to be up to SEK 9 billion. The increased net capacity of 400 ktonnes together with a more profitable product mix will create significant shareholder value over time.

Verso’s Board of Directors, acting upon the recommendation of a special committee, has unanimously approved, and resolved to recommend the transaction to Verso’s shareholders. The transaction is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2022, subject to the approval of Verso’s shareholders as well as the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

The merger with Verso and the business transformation are planned to be financed through a combination of additional debt, a rights issue and operating cash flow. BillerudKorsnäs has a new credit facility of SEK 6 billion, planned to be used for this purpose and to be refinanced by issuance of debt instruments and a rights issue. The Board of Directors intends to propose to a general meeting of BillerudKorsnäs’ shareholders that it is authorized to resolve upon a rights issue of up to SEK 3.5 billion, to be carried out in 2022 following completion of the acquisition of Verso.


BillerudKorsnäs’ production in Pietarsaari is from 1 January 2022 affected by the strike at UPM’s nearby pulp mill, which supplies the operation with pulp, purified water, steam and compressed air. Although production in Pietarsaari is ongoing, there are still production interruptions due to the strike. The strike is estimated to negatively affect BillerudKorsnäs’ first quarter result by around SEK 10 million.

Rapids name change announcement NEXXA Letter

Dear Valued Customer,

We are very excited to announce that we are changing our divisional name from Little Rapids Print Division to Nexxa.

As we continue to invest and grow, we felt it was time to update both our branding as well as our digital presence.  We have not been sold and we have not changed our ownership, or our business operating as a Division of Little Rapids Corporation.  As Little Rapids Print Division, we have created a solid service driven business, built around key partnerships with customers and suppliers like you.  This will not change!  We want to build on this brand promise and deliver without compromise, services that exceed your expectations.  In this turbulent time, knowing you have a dependable and resilient partner for you printing needs is critical.

We will be rolling the new brand out in phases over the next few months

Our Phase 1 website launched in September ( ).  Phase 2 will be complete by the end of Q4 this year. We plan to have all current branded items, including pricing quotes, labelling, quality assurance documents etc. transition by the end of December 2021.

GBIG NEWS ST Paper Interview

GBIG NEWS ST. Paper, LLC. Interview and Tour of the facility in Duluth, MN. on January 19, 2022

I met with Ron Thiry the Sr. VP and COO and Gary Wargin, Mill Manager at ST. Paper 1, LLC in Duluth MN.  St Paper 1, LLC. purchased the paper mill from Verso in May 2021.  The initial conversion phase, Project Bluewater, will involve the installation of a new tissue machine to transition the mill from production of SC grades to bathroom tissue, napkin and towel grades. Initially, ST. Paper LLC. was founded by Sharad Tak and his son Sahil Tak when they purchased the Oconto Falls mill in 2007. The new owners and management team invested in the mill and soon returned it to financial viability.  ST. Paper, LLC. manufactures tissue, napkin and paper towels for the away from home market using 100% recycled wastepaper producing jumbo rolls.  In 2012, the Tak’s expanded by creating ST Tissue LLC when they purchased a portion of a shuttered paper mill in Isle of Wight, VA from International Paper Company.  It was a feat of innovation that never has been accomplished by converting an over 300” fine printing paper machine to a light tissue mill! The project was completed in 2013.  In 2017 ST. Tissue LLC announced the conversion of a second fine paper machine to make tissue grades at the – Isle of Wight, VA mill.  The Virginia mill also produces parent rolls primarily for the away home tissue market.  

I traveled up to visit their newest acquisition in January 2022 to Duluth, MN, the former Verso Paper Mill.  I had the opportunity of spending an afternoon and dinner with Ron Thiry and Gary Wargin talking about the paper mill and the plans for it.  The Mill had one paper machine 300” wide and producing lightweight SC ground wood papers for the printing markets.  In addition, the mill has one ground wood pulping facility and one recycled pulping facility to support their paper production.  ST. Paper 1, LLC. will be installing a brand new 210” Andritz tissue machine at this facility with a scheduled completion date in the 4th quarter of 2022. The new machine will have the capability to produce parent roll products of tissue with 100% recycled fiber, virgin fiber or blends! They will be able to use their current pulping facilities to support their production by getting scrap paper from a three state region – Twin Cities, Chicago and Milwaukee of Sorted Office Waste and OCC.  At this point in time, they do not have plans for the ground wood pulping facilities since the pulp too coarse for tissue products. They have a variety of options for revitalizing the original paper machine.  If they decide on converting the machine to tissue production, they have the experience and talent to do so!  However, their primary focus at this time is to put all their efforts to install and get the brand new tissue machine up and running.  ST Paper, Duluth has the people in place, the talent and they are bringing back skilled and experience technicians to achieve a successful project.    

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