Landmark paper mill shuts down, 270 jobs lost

Landmark paper mill shuts down, 270 jobs lost »Play Video

ALBANY, Ore. - About 270 people with families, mortgages, and bills are now out of work after an Albany paper mill stopped making paper Tuesday.

The final day of production for the International Paper plant signaled the end of a way of life for generations of families.

“I’d say that at least 20 of us are at least second and one-third generation employees here,” said Todd Dittmer who is losing his job at the plant as an electrician.

The Albany paper mill is closing after almost 55 years of operation and to Dittmer the closure leaves him and other workers with an uncertain future.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said.

Dittmer has worked at the plant for 13 years and his father worked there for 37, but on Tuesday the mill turned off its paper machine for good.

“It was like the reality hadn’t set in,” said Dittmer. “As long as the machine was making  paper. … And today it definitely hit. It’s real. There’s no going back now.”

Humpty’s Bar and Restaurant has served millworkers for years and its closure will hurt business and peace of mind, said Debbie Bayliss of Humpty’s.

“It’s been there that long and [to] have that many employees [when that] goes out, whose next? Any one of us could be,” she said.

Many millworkers said what really makes them angry is International Paper won’t sell the mill to a competitor so the workers can keep working.

Plant manager Jeff Yoder said selling the mill wouldn’t make business sense.

“Basically, it’s a supply and demand commodity business,” he said.

The global recession has slashed demand for paper and paperboard products and the company, which has been cutting capacity since 2008, said a recovery is not in sight.

“It’s sad,” said Dittmer. “It’s like we’re going to create a whole society of poverty. The way we’re doing it - I don’t know.”

The moves, to be implemented from mid-December through spring 2010, will cut IP’s capacity, which has been about 16 million tons, by about 2.1 million tons or 13 percent.

Nationwide, the company employs about 57,000 people and, in addition to the Albany closure, will close plants in Pineville, La., Franklin, Va. and an idled machine at the company’s mill in Valliant, Okla. In all, 1,600 jobs will be eliminated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.