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Appleton Coated will temporarily re-hire 50 employees for three months

COMBINED LOCKS, Wis. - The Appleton Coated paper mill will reopen for three months and hire fifty former employees back to operate at least one machine, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson confirmed on Wednesday.

One worker who was laid off in September said that the mill has at least one new customer with a big order for brown paper.

"Brown packaging is booming right now and that is one of the orders I know they have, which is a larger order," Ron Kohl, a former Appleton Coated employee, said. 

Back in September, 650 Appleton Coated employees were laid off. A judge decided the mill would go into receivership while Industrial Assets marketed the mill, with a 90-day window for potential buyers to purchase the mill.

"It hurt a lot of people, it hurt a lot of families, hurt a lot of businesses," Kohl said. "And a lot of the community around here is affected by it, including Kaukauna Electric and grocery stores and all your small businesses."

Kohl was able to find a new job, but he says many of his friends from the mill still haven't.

Nelson has noticed the hit to the local economy as well. 

"From August to about October, the state has lost 3,000 jobs, and of those 3,000, one thousand were in the Fox Valley. Most of those jobs were paper jobs," Nelson said.

He added that the hope may lie in brown paper packaging. 

"One of the fastest growing companies in the country is Amazon. What is Amazon? Amazon is a brown paper package with stuff inside. There is an incredible future for brown paper. So some of these mills like Appleton Coated that had traditionally done white paper grades, if they can make a transition to brown paper grades like packaging, the future is limitless," Nelson said.

Both Kohl and Nelson confirmed that prospective buyers have shown interest in purchasing Appleton Coated.

Kohl says that the mill had been experimenting with brown paper before it shut down, and it could be the key to reopening permanently. 

"it was something that we were trialing before we shut down and we were very successful in doing so. A little capital money, and it could be a very prosperous mill," Kohl said.

Industrial Assets did not return Local 5's request for comment. 

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