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Newton Falls Paper Mill promises a re-opening

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Newton Falls Paper Mill promises a re-opening
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It was one of the largest employers in the area, but after tough financial times, the Newton Falls Fine Paper Mill had to lay of dozens of employees. While they said they would start production back up, that plan is on hold, at least for now. Our Rachael Paradis has more on what will happen and why mill leaders say they are not ready to give up.

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- When the Newton Falls Fine Paper Mill re-opened in 2007 after years of being closed, there was an excitement in the small community surrounding the mill. Dozens headed to work and production was looking optimistic.

However, in the past year, the cost of paper crashed and energy costs went up, making it more expensive to run the mill than profit being made. In December, mill leaders announced for another time that the mill would be closing and about 80 people would lose their jobs.

John Hooper worked at the Newton Falls Fine Paper Mill for more than 30 years and a few months ago, when they announced they were ending production again, he knew lay-offs were coming.

Hooper said, "Disappointment and understanding."

Clifton-Fine Economic Development President Chris Westbrook said, "Shock. At first everyone is shocked."

The mill laid off 80 people and just kept a skeleton crew. Leaders had plans of re-opening in the fall months in 2011, but as time passed, that idea didn't seem possible and word got out that it wouldn't happen.

However, at a meeting Wednesday night, officials made the announcement that the mill had a new business plan in the works and this was not the end.

Newton Falls Fine Paper Mill President Scott Travers said, "Our new business plan is all about reinventing our mill."

While Travers couldn't give specifics, the plan does include keeping the income from state grants, finding a cheap energy source and securing new partners. While Travers promises this is the beginning of a new chapter, it's unclear when that date will come.

Travers said, "We're doing everything we can right now to prep the mill for that day, but, I can't give you a timeline."

For the dozens in the community who showed up Wednesday to hear the good news, they know how important this mill is, as it was one of the largest employers in the area.

Westbrook said, "When a big industry like this leaves the area, all the businesses suffer. Some of them will have to close down, shorten hours and then that will have an impact."

The mill is getting a lot of support from the community when it comes to re-opening and many are optimistic that this time around will be bigger and better. The president of the mill says the process of getting partners and down payments on goods has already started and many are hopeful they will head back to work sooner than later.

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