An insult to New Hampshire.

This is a draft of an idea that I’m currently working on.

For months now I’ve been seeking answers to question that continues to face northern New Hampshire. And this question is:

Why did the mills close?

It started in 2006 with the closure and eventual demolition of the Fraser papermill in Berlin and continued on with the closure of both Groveton paperboard and the Wausau Papers mill in Groveton. And it doesn’t appear to be over. The last remaining paper mill in Gorham operates on a reduced capacity schedule. Its future is uncertain.

I’ve spent time looking at the industry, the markets the workers and most importantly the state policy that seems an ever powerful influence over everything a business does. Part of my investigation is also upon transportation and the very systems that bring the finished paper to market and transport the raw material to the mills. Rail and trucking both get it done. But recently, I tripped over a statement that really concerns me a statement that I think is a direct insult to New Hampshire.
“The mills in northern New England closed because they were inefficient.” Said the CEO of the Genesee & Wyoming railroad. The Genesee & Wyoming Railroad is the east-west railroad line running through Groveton, Berlin from eastern Canada enroute to Maine.

Inefficient.

Facts show that the mills operating in northern New Hampshire had not only made multi million dollar investments in their physical assets but they employed some of the most experienced papermakers in North America if not the world. Clearly there is a market for the paper made in New Hampshire, its been this way for hundreds of years. I think the mills closed not because of the markets or the mills themselves but of decisive issues around them.

A partial list includes:

Name one action by either Senators John E. Sununu or Judd Gregg to preserve this industry in northern New Hampshire.

Compare the rates charged for rail service from the Genesee & Wyoming against other rail carriers in places like Wisconsin, Alabama and Mississippi.

In 2003 I asked Executive Councilor Raymond S. Burton to attend a then upcoming trade mission to the EU to advance ideas, markets and sales for the paper mills in northern New Hampshire. Burton termed the trade mission a “fun trip.” then declined to attend.

In 2007 I contracted DRED Director Michael Vlassich to ask what his office was doing about this issue. He never responded. Never.

To be continued…