A team of state officials is in northern New Hampshire Thursday to begin talking with hundreds of mill workers about to lose their jobs. Members of the state's Rapid Response team will meet with workers to coordinate assistance for those affected.
Governor Lynch plans to visit the community in the next few days.
No matter who you talk to in Groveton, whether it is a business owner, school officials, or area residents, the sentiment is the same - the closure of the Wausua Paper Mill is going to hit this community hard.
"Hundreds will leave. The prices of houses will fall. Hard times. The school will lay off. The town will lay off. Businesses will close," says Eugene Montgomery who lives in Groveton.
The plant announced Tuesday it will stop all paper making activities at the end of this year. Over 300 employees will lose their jobs. Mill officials say that a number of different factors led to the company's demise -- including the increased cost of fuel and less demand for paper products.
"The paper markets have shrunk 15% to 20% in the last four to five years. The paperless society that we all hear about, that is a result of that which really takes away pricing leverage," says David Atkinson of Wausau Paper.
Gov. John Lynch had directed the state's rapid response team to begin meeting with workers who will be laid off. Lynch took similar action last year when the pulp mill in Berlin announced it will be closing. But some people in this area feel that just is not enough.
"I'd like to see more people in Concord come up here and spend a couple of weeks and go back down and have their meetings and come back up, follow up, keep us up to date. If they do that, then it's a big plus," says Gordon Hawes.
Hawes has family members in the school district. It's estimated that 60% of current plant employees live in the district and the superintendent fears that could have a huge impact on the schools.
"It's always important to remember this isn't just going to affect adults in the community. It's going to affect the children. It's going to affect the school system. It's going to affect all of the businesses in town. We all need to be together," says Carl Ladd, school superintendent.
Shipping and distribution operations are expected to continue at the plant into at least the first quarter of next year. But plant officials say those operations are only temporary.
The people WCAX spoke with in Groveton said this plant is really the only place in town for good, high paying jobs. A federal prison is likely to be built in the area and an ATV park is currently under construction with is hoped to spark economic growth. Also state leaders have already begun to find a business to buy the former paper mill in Berlin. So the wheels are definitely in motion, but it is fair to say things are expected to get worse before they get better.
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