Casperson: Owner must get more involved to keep paper mill open

MANISTIQUE — The FutureMark Manistique paper mill will be closing on or about next Tuesday.

Company officials say they’ve been trying to keep the mill open by either selling it or raising new capital. They’ve been unable to do either of those things, but they say they’ll keep trying to sell the mill after it closes.

It also closed in August 2011 after going bankrupt. Back then, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation helped arrange a sale of the company’s debt to mBank. The mill reopened less than two months after shutting down.

However, for something similar to happen this time, State Senator Tom Casperson believes the company’s current owner needs to get more involved in the process.

“There’s certainly the will and the effort on the local level,” Casperson said. “The mill manager and those folks are working very hard to try and make it happen, but there needs to be some buy-in from Watermill itself, the investment company itself. That’s where the MEDC should step in and try to help as well, but we haven’t been able to bridge that gap.”

FutureMark Manistique is Schoolcraft County’s largest industrial employer. Once the mill closes, its 147 employees will all lose their jobs.

“I’ve talked to (State Representative) John Kivela about it and the rest of the U.P. (legislative) delegation, and we’re all on the same page,” Casperson said. “This is one of those areas where you come together and you try to do everything you can to figure out a solution for it. So, I hope there are some solutions either way that it goes, that we keep working towards a solution to the problem that the community’s going to face.”

The mill has been in business since 1920. It’s operated for most of that time under the name Manistique Papers.

The Watermill Group, a Massachusetts private investment firm, bought the company in 2012 and gave it its current name.