Annual Paper Industry International Hall of Fame dinner and award ceremony in Appleton, Wisconsin, celebrates role of paper in everyday life, adds six new inductees to membership roster

APPLETON, Wisconsin , October 4, 2013 () – Despite the paper industry's consolidation and downsizing over the last 15 years, and its lesser role in media due to the Internet, the industry as a whole has an irreplaceable spot in everyday lives.

That role was celebrated by more than 200 people at the annual Paper Industry International Hall of Fame dinner and award ceremony Thursday night at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton.

While newsprint and 8 1/2 -by-11-inch sheets of paper have taken a hit in the Internet era, other uses for paper have picked up the slack. In Wisconsin, paper thrives as tissue and incontinence products, as well as wrappers on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, boxes that arrive from Amazon and paper towels in Lambeau Field bathrooms.

Six new inductees were added to the hall of fame's membership roster during the annual dinner.

SCA chairman Sverker Martin-Lof made the trip from Sweden to accept his honor for 47 years working in paper. He said his company's tissue and towel operations here, employing 930 in Neenah and Menasha, are important and well-positioned. "It has a bright future in my point of view because it's very well located. It has a very strategic location. The more we can add to the quality of the product and the innovation, the better we can do."

He said his company moved away from packaging and into personal care.

"A lot has happened in the paper industry over time. There's a lot of overcapacity, a lot of competition and restructuring. Many paper grades have been losing ground. It has been important to find other areas where there's a good future," he said. "In hygiene products, the whole portfolio is growing at the rate of GDP. We also have significant growth in developing countries in Asia and South America."

Great Northern Corp.'s CEO John Davis gave the keynote speech and while he remarked on the industry's tremendous consolidation, it was also a time of great innovation and sustainability efforts. "Overpackaging is becoming a thing of the past. Now 1.7 million new trees are planted every day and 91 percent of boxes are reclaimed," he said.

One research innovator honored Thursday night was caught in the grips of the government shutdown. USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory assistant director Ted Wegner was one of the six hall of fame inductees. At the same time, he is a furloughed government worker.

As a research leader, his work helps develop wood fiber into new high performance products and applications for automotive, pharmaceutical, aeronautics and 3D printing fields. But until the government solves its issues, he's benched.

"We don't like it, but we have to live with it. I understand that I'm a public servant," he said. "But I'd rather earn my keep than sit on the sidelines and get paid retroactively later. I'd rather be working."

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