Workers, Community Prepare for Brokaw Mill Closure

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

A majority of the 450 employed at Wausau Paper's Brokaw paper mill will be out of work after Friday.

In December the papermaker announced it was selling its high-end color and print brand to Neenah Paper, resulting in the closure of the Brokaw plant.

Friday lay-off's begin, however a portion of workers will stay on for another couple of months to assist in converting operations. The mill is expected to close its doors permanently by March 31st.

John Case, 56, grew up in Brokaw and has worked at his hometown mill for 25 years.

"I was really hoping I could retire from there and then all of a sudden find out I don't have anything," Case said.

The Department of Workforce Development has been assisting mill employees, setting up a room at Brokaw Village Hall where workers can use computers to search for jobs and take workshops.

Case has taken several, including one that taught him how to write a resume, a skill he hasn't needed until now.

After he punches out for the last time Friday, the father of three will consider signing up for technical college courses and start searching for jobs in the area.

"We wanna stay here and I'm sure I'll come up with something," Case said. "There will be something here for me."

The picture is also unclear for the tight-knit community. Brokaw was built around the mill in 1903, just three years after the mill first produced paper.

Another staple in the community, Brokaw Credit Union, was sponsored by the mill and established in 1952 specifically for mill workers.

The interim president says the credit union, which has another location in Weston, will stay put.

"Right now today our intention is to be there, make sure everybody in the mill gets through this transition and we will continue to service our members," Mary Zillman said.

With the credit union's heritage in Brokaw, Zillman says when the mill closes its doors permanently, it will be a sad day.

"We certainly hate to see it go," she said.

The closure of the mill is expected to have a ripple effect, possibly claiming hundreds of additional jobs in the area.

After the initial announcement, the Marathon County Development Corporation predicted about 650 job losses in industries that depend on the papermaker to spend money.

The loss of the paper mill jobs is predicted to drain about $27 million from Central Wisconsin's economy each year.

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