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Wed, Feb 21, 2024 21:06
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Management Side

Mill visits...

Jim -
As summer turns warm, I too turn to a bit of travel (often accompanied by my wife).  Sometimes, that is to visit clients and other times to visit family or communities in which we, my bride, family and I, lived and/or worked.

Recently, we passed through Quincy, Ill. and though I had known for years the mill where I started in the industry was closed and decommissioned, a physical visit to the location was visceral.  The property was level and covered with limestone gravel 2” coarse grade, with the exception of approximate 30 feet of stack base (solid concrete), that was apparently more cost effective to leave in place.  The irony was the office building across the street that once held the Central Fiber Products corporate offices, HR, Engineering, Waste Paper Acquisition, and Sales on the top floor and Division Technical, Purchasing and Mill offices on the lower two floors was still there and looked like time had stood still with its outside appearance virtually unchanged.  Door stencils were even still in place.

For Quincy, the picture was not pleasant.  The posted town population when entering showed a 20% decline from 50 years ago.  Yes, there was some indication that outside city limits has a bit or residential sprawl but not that much. The reality of the retrenchment of an industry often built on the banks of rivers large and small was stark.  This same story could have been at yet another property in my past and yours, Rittman, Ohio.  These were mills that represented the board industry segment producing some custom/specialty products as well as some generic paperboard, and are now but memories or skeletons of a once robust segment of the US economy.  They have been supplanted by more generic packaging materials that are more efficiently produced or deemed sufficient to protect and deliver products to market, and in large part they perform well.  We knew for a long time that many things were over packaged but reality of the marketplace drove cost cutting and brought on those material use reductions.

So it is up to us, the long term memory holders of the industry, to not say, “Oh, what’s happened is horrible”, but rather to re-think how to do things better even today.  That is why I consult, and I’m sure you’ve stayed engaged for similar reasons.  It was also part of the social contract we entered into when we came into the industry.  We partnered with one another to solve community mill problems and sometimes even exchange of or borrowing of equipment to be replaced or returned at a later date.

OK, I’ll stop for now.

Best regards,
D.G. "Dave" Ruby


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