Corrected: Closure of Verso paper mill in Minnesota and bankruptcy of NewPage add pressure to troubled Minnesota logging, trucking companies; workers leave to find jobs elsewhere

LOS ANGELES , January 4, 2012 () – Industry Intelligence Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to show that New Page’s mill in Duluth, Minnesota, is in operation. The original version, posted on Jan. 5, incorrectly said it had been closed. The error was that of Industry Intelligence.

A new round of paper mill difficulties during 2011 added further burdens to the Minnesota logging and trucking industry, already among those sectors most affected by the drop in new construction over the last four years, The Mesabi Daily News reported Jan. 4.

However, an industry representative sees some hope in changes under way, according to the article carried by GrandRapidsMN.com.

The Minnesota mill shutdown of two of three lines at Memphis, Tennessee-based Verso Paper Corp.’s paper mill in Sartell, as well as the September bankruptcy filing of NewPage Corp., took members of the Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers of Minnesota by surprise, said the organization's executive director Scott Dane.

The Miamisburg, Ohio-based NewPage continues to operate its Minnesota paper mill, which is located in Duluth and is fully operational.

The logging and trucking industry has seen “continuous erosion” in the last few years, said Dane, adding that eventually the loss of infrastructure would affect other areas. Many drivers have left the sector to work in North Dakota's oil industry because of high fuel costs and lack of fuel adjustments through the mills, said Dane.

Fuel adjustment policy talks continue but with little progress, he added.

Some Minnesota loggers are already having difficulty finding truckers to move their wood, The Mesabi Daily News reported.

Dane said the mills needed to make some concessions to help the trucking industry for the mills to stay in business themselves.

Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., introduced legislation in the U.S. House to allow six-axle logging trucks to use interstate highways--legislation that could immediately help truckers if passed, Dane noted. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced a similar bill. Both could pass in early 2012.

Dane also said the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton had been “very responsive to the needs of the forest industry,” recognizing its economic and environmental value.

The primary source of this article is The Mesabi Daily News, Virginia, Minnesota, Jan. 4, 2012.

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