GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- Blandin Paper Co. of Grand Rapids announced Wednesday it is laying off 298 of its 800 workers as it permanently shuts down two of its four production lines.
"We've operated both of these machines well past their prime," said Joe Maher, senior vice president and general manager of Blandin.
The machines were built in 1931 and 1963, said Blandin spokeswoman Rebecca Theim. She said Blandin will continue to operate two newer machines.
Maher said paper production overcapacity continues to be a problem in North America, and Blandin needs to focus on its most productive and efficient assets to be globally competitive.
Blandin was bought in 1997 by Helsinki, Finland-based UPM-Kymmene. At that time, the plant had about 1,000 workers.
Terms of the layoffs will be negotiated with the employees' union, the company said.
Community leaders were preparing for the loss. Warnings that the machines were old and inefficient prompted them in 2001 to develop plans to create new jobs.
"We began feeling a sense of urgency," said Sandy Layman, president of the Itasca Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development group.
The county and various private groups organized an economic summit. They formed Jobs 2020, an ad-hoc, private-sector group encouraging economic development.
"The community felt the need to be prepared and not be caught in a reactive mode when decisions like this were finally made," Layman said.
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