UP Paper off to a smooth start

MANISTIQUE — Schoolcraft County suffered a huge loss after the Manistique Paper Mill closed its doors just over a year ago. But under new management, and a new name, the paper company is ready for business.

UP Paper, LLC, was born from the ashes of what was once the largest industrial employer in the county.

The plant spent most of the winter re-structuring the business around the production of a single specialty product – brown kraft paper.

The paper is most commonly used in the creation of the brown paper bags seen at grocery markets and fast food restaurants. Officials say the decision to focus on kraft paper, compared to a variety of paper products that involve bleaches and dyes, was both fiscally sound and environmentally friendly.

“We’re going to be using this type of paper more than we have used in the past,” UP Paper, LLC CEO Lars Dannberg said. “Plastic bags are not necessarily good for the environment. Plastic, as we know it, is floating around in rivers and oceans so I think this is going to grow.”

In April of 2016, UP Paper hired its first batch of employees, starting with maintenance and moving on to machine operators. The company did chose to re-hire some of those who lost their jobs as a result of the plant’s closure the year prior.

At full capacity, the plant will run with 90 positions. So far, just over 70 have been filled with a mix of fresh and experienced faces.

“I have to say that the people here are so hardworking and good people. It’s unbelievable,” said Dannberg. “I’ve been starting up plants all over the world and I’ve never seen a crew like this. They’re very good, hard working people.”

The plant has been running on and off since June, working on getting samples out into the market. By October, Dannberg says the plant should be running at full capacity.