FutureMark Paper Group to Indefinitely Idle Illinois Facility
FutureMark Paper Group, headquartered in Westport, Conn., has announced that, due to increasingly challenging market conditions in the North American coated paper market, it will indefinitely idle its Alsip, Ill. mill in early September. Alsip is the only facility in North America making coated publication and printing papers predominantly from recycled materials.
"This is an extremely difficult decision for us given the exceptional achievements of the Alsip mill in producing coated papers with unmatched levels of recycled content and the dedicated work of all of our employees," said Stephen L. Silver, CEO of FutureMark. "We explored many options to avoid this action, but the brutal reality for all coated paper manufacturers today is that falling demand and pricing pressure from lower-quality uncoated substitutes has driven prices to near historic lows. Combined with massive increases in energy costs over the winter, this pricing pressure has made it impossible for us to continue our Alsip operations at this time."
The coated paper market is under increasing pressure as coated mechanical paper prices continue to decline and energy prices remain high following record-cold winter. Aggravating an already weak market, the Canadian government's estimated $200 million subsidy of the previously bankrupt Port Hawkesbury paper mill in Nova Scotia in 2014 enabled that mill to reopen and flood the market with 40,000 tons per month of low-cost supercalendered paper, creating an overcapacity that has most U.S. coated paper players operating at a loss.
FutureMark Alsip will remain open for up to two weeks to fulfill orders and support customer efforts to transition to new suppliers. The mill presently employs 170 workers, and the announcement will affect all positions at the mill. After running out customer orders, a closure team will remain on site for a period of time to shut down the machine, maintain the facility and infrastructure, and support customers in the smooth transition of products and services.