The good news is that the fluff machine will still operate and around 250 employees will be needed to keep that operation up and going.
Recent history of the local plant mirrors a global economy and cultural shift that has changed the way information is presented to a community, whether that community be Talladega County or the entire world.
As the use of the Internet changed the platform for information, newsprint, which had been the commodity used in printing newspapers, became less desirable. Through the last decade that industry has consolidated, with companies buying each other and then shutting down mills or converting them to other uses.
At Coosa Pines, we thought the conversion approach would work. AbitibitBowater, the fourth owner of the mill in recent years, converted the paper machine to manufacture a packaging material. That project simply didn’t work out because of the increased investment needed to make the product competitive.
AbitibiBowater officials gave high marks to the employees of the mill who “worked tirelessly” to make the conversion a success. “They have done whatever it took to make it successful, but there were too many things out of their control,” said Debbie Johnson, director of public relations of AbitibiBowater.
The fluff which will continue to be manufactured at Coosa Pines is used in consumer products like diapers and tissues. It is made from soft wood and has a brighter future because of its consumer customer base rather than an industrial base.
The plant at Coosa Pines began making newsprint in 1949. At one time, four machines were making hundreds of thousands of tons of newsprint at the mill each year. Most of the newsprint used by The Daily Home was trucked 15 miles from the mill site to the newspaper.
But over time the market changed for newspapers and for newsprint manufacturers. As costs rose, publishers were forced to make decisions that reduced the amount of newsprint used in each edition, and that resulted in fewer or smaller orders for the plants.
It couldn’t be overcome forever. In 2009, AbitibiBowater saw a 35 percent reduction in paper orders and closed down the last newsprint line, converting the facility to brown paper. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked either, and now Coosa Pines is solely producing fluff.
We wish the mill and the company huge successes in that field. The U.S. needs a strong paper industry, and Talladega County needs a stable employment base at the Coosa Pines mill.
We regret the loss of jobs and hope those affected will be able to find other employment soon.