Optimism despite paper industry setbacks - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

Optimism despite paper industry setbacks

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STEVENS POINT (AP) -

The paper industry in our state is a hot topic. Several paper mills are in the process of being sold.

So it begs the question, is there hope for those here in Wisconsin looking to get in the business?

Karyn Biasca is professor of Paper Science and Engineering at UW-Stevens Point.

She's been teaching students about paper for years.

"We teach some of the basics of paper making and the science behind paper making and help them to understand how they're particular job fits in with the big picture in the paper mill," said Biasca. 

The Paper Science and Engineering Program has been around for 30 years.

Biasca says more than 700 graduates are in the industry now.

Today, 80 students are enrolled in the program.

"Our student numbers have increased substantially in the last five years or so," said Biasca. 

An increase she's happy about at a rough time for the paper industry.

"It makes me sad I really don't like to hear about paper mills closing because I know that's a very devastating and has a really devastating effect on the families in that community," said Biasca.

This time last year, hundreds of Wausau Paper employees lost their jobs after the Brokaw Mill closed.  

Back in 2008, the Domtar Mill in Port Edwards closed, putting 500 people out of work.  

Although Domtar officials recently announced they've sold the Port Edwards Mill to a company based in Ohio.

The future of other Wausau Paper mills is also unclear, after the company announced it plans to sell its mills in Rhinelander and Mosinee.

But despite all this, Biasca says she's actually optimistic for the future.  

"100 percent of our students get jobs, the vast majority of them here in the state of Wisconsin," said Biasca. 

So for now Biasca will continue to teach students about this field, that she says is vital to our state.  

Program leaders say they also offer outreach courses for those already working at paper mills. This allows them to learn and apply new skills to the industry.  

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