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Brainerd mill time line

■ Northwest Paper Co. established the mill in Brainerd in the first years of the 20th century. The mill was shut down in 1911, dismantled in 1914 and re-established on the Mississippi River’s east side, opening in 1917.

■ The Brainerd mill closed for nine months during the Great Depression, transforming itself from making newsprint to making wallpaper.

■ March 18, 2001: Potlatch announced the sale of its printed papers division and the closing of the Brainerd mill and the Cloquet pulp and paper mill, putting nearly 616 people out of work.

Potlatch made the sales agreement with South African-based Sappi Limited for the Cloquet mill and related assets for $480 million in cash.

A non-compete clause was attached preventing coated paper-making in Brainerd.

■ Potlatch retained ownership of the Brainerd mill, announcing it would cease production on its two paper machines in May of 2001. Market value of the land and buildings at the Brainerd mill was $8,353,400.

■ Mike Hatch, Minnesota attorney general, filed a lawsuit opposing the non-compete clause. In court, both sides agreed the mill had a worldwide reputation for paper quality. Hatch’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the district court judge.

■ Potential suitors toured the mill and Potlatch officials made a trip to Asia in marketing efforts.

■ February of 2003: Missota Paper bought the mill for $4.44 million and hired about 160 workers, mostly former Potlatch employees.

An economic downturn hurt the young company’s start.

■ Early November 2003: Missota Paper announced an extended shutdown. The future was uncertain and shoppers were looking at the mill for its worth in parts.

Dan Alexander, Missota president and chief executive officer, and Jim Withers, executive vice president and chief operating officer, worked to find a buyer interested in running the mill.

■ Oct. 1, 2004: Wisconsin-based Wausau Paper announced it signed an agreement to buy the Missota Paper Co. mill for $9.6 million and put 135 people back to work. Wausau Paper was founded by Norman Brokaw and brothers W.L. and E.A. Edmonds in 1899.

■ 5:24 p.m., Nov. 17, 2004: Wausau Paper began making paper at the Brainerd mill. By 2005, the mill long noted for an ability to produce quality white paper expanded to color production. In early 2006, the mill employed 160 people.

■ In 2011, a $27 million capital investment rebuilt the No. 7 paper machine in Brainerd to make technical and specialty grades, such as those used to produce masking tape and grades for the food industry.

The tape and industrial papers include markets in health care, food and beverage, packaging, automotive, home construction, office and school supply, graphic arts and label converters. Food service customers include popcorn, pan liners, bacon layout and grease resistant papers, which is used in fast food — such as sandwich and burger wraps — deli and carry-out, bottle labels, french fry bags and ice cream cone sleeves.

■ December of 2011: Wausau announced it was selling its color brands to Neenah Paper, ending the company’s participation in print and color markets. At this time the mill employed 190 workers. As 2012 was arriving, the move to the technical and speciality grades was expected to accelerate.

■ November of 2012: Wausau Paper announced it was ending paper production in Brainerd and laying off 48 hourly and seven salary workers.

■ Jan. 11, 2013: Wausau Paper announced it was leaving the specialty technical paper business and focusing on its tissue business, meaning the Brainerd mill would not be part of the company’s future.

■ Feb. 21, 2013: Wausau Paper announced it was closing the Brainerd mill with production expected to cease in April, depending on customer orders. The companies other technical paper mills — in Mosinee and Rhinelander, Wis. — remain open. The latest estimated total value of the Brainerd mill at 1801 Mill Ave., in land and buildings, listed by Crow Wing County is $8,729,500.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889