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Cascades Tissue Group feeling fallout from Boise Inc. shutdown

Managers of the privately owned Cascades Tissue Group operation in St. Helens expect to know by early December whether the company will continue local operations or shut down.

“We’re evaluating whether we’ll be able to go forward or not,” said Eric Prochnow, manager at the St. Helens mill. Prochnow said he is traveling this week to Cascade Tissues Group’s headquarters in Montreal, Canada for a companywide budget meeting where he expects to gain a better understanding of operational prospects at the St. Helens mill.

Cascades Tissue Group maintains one machine, called H3, at the Boise Inc.-owned pulp and paper mill in St. Helens. Boise Inc. officials announced plans in mid-October to halt production on H2, the company’s only operational machine at the St. Helens mill, by the end of the year. The shutdown of H2, a result the company says is from declining demand for free-sheet and food-grade paper products, will result in the laying off of 106 full-time employees.

The fine details for how Boise Inc.’s cessation of operations will affect Cascades Tissue Group is still being determined.

“It’s certainly something we have been discussing,” said Karen Blanchard, a spokeswoman for Boise Inc. Blanchard has also said her company is exploring alternatives for the inactive portions of the mill.

Cascade Tissue Group and Boise Inc. have a contract for shared services at the St. Helens mill that is now being renegotiated in light of the Boise Inc. shutdown.

There is little question, however, that it will negatively affect Cascades Tissue Group’s bottom line in St. Helens.

“Our costs change significantly without Boise here, because there was a lot of shared costs between the two,” Prochnow said. “We were joined at the hip.”

Prochnow said Cascades Tissue Group employs 38 people to work round-the-clock shifts at the St. Helens mill, a number that would have to increase to 60 to maintain its operations there.

One possibility being considered is moving H3 to Cascades Tissue Group’s plant in Eau Claire, Wis., Prochnow said. H3 is the highest-producing machine in the company’s portfolio, he said, averaging a production output of 60,000 tons annually.

He said he hopes to continue operations in St. Helens, and said employees there are trying to remain optimistic.

“Our goal is to continue to run. That is what I’m after,” he said. “We do have a good operation here.”

Ultimately, however, the final decision will be number-based and formed at the higher executive levels in the company, he said.