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Wausau paper officials: Not easy to convert paper mills' product lines


MOSINEE, WI (WTAQ) - It’s not as easy as it sounds to convert a paper mill from one major product line to another.

That what officials at Wausau Paper said Thursday, after Governor Scott Walker said the state might have some options to help keep its mills at Mosinee and Rhinelander profitable.

A week ago, Wausau said it would sell both plants, plus one in Brainerd Minnesota. During a visit to nearby Weston, the governor was asked if the state could help Wausau Paper re-tool its food wrapping and specialty paper plants so they could fit in with the company’s current strategy of serving the growing market for tissue paper.

Wausau’s Perry Grueber said the intent is good, but the two Wisconsin mills could not benefit from what would be an expensive conversion. Grueber said the specialty papers have a growing market as well, and it would not make sense to change them.

Wausau’s largest shareholder disagrees, though – and it has accused the company of mismanagement by not doing enough to zero in on the tissue and paper towel markets.

The shareholder, a New York hedge fund, has been squabbling for some time with Wausau’s management. But the paper firm defends its business strategy.

Grueber said the three mills were never described as “troubled.” He says they’re well-positioned to succeed as the economy recovers – but he said Wausau’s long-term goal is to focus on away from home tissue products with a greater potential for profit and growth.

So far, there are no potential buyers for the three mills.