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116 to lose jobs in Bellemont paper factory closure

116 to lose jobs in Bellemont paper factory closure

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Bellemont paper plant closes

The Swedish company Essity announced last week that their Bellemont paper conversion facility will shutter its doors by winter of 2019. The closure could cost as many as 116 jobs.

A paper products plant in Bellemont will be shutting its doors come the second half of 2019, leading to the loss of as many as 116 jobs.

The factory’s parent company Essity, formally called SCA, announced the decision last week with company officials saying the decision was made to “further improve efficiency and strengthen the competitiveness for the professional hygiene business in North America.”

Essity has owned the factory since 2001 and Amy Bellcourt, the vice president of communications for Essity, said the decision was purely a financial one.

“This decision is no reflection of the skill or work of the employees working at the plant,” Bellcourt said.

The company shut a related factory in Flagstaff last year for similar reasons. That plant produced the raw paper product that would eventually become tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. The plant in Bellemont was a converting facility, meaning it converted that raw paper material into the final products.

Bellcourt said these products were not the kind the average consumer might purchase, with most being sold in bulk to businesses.

Since the closure of the Flagstaff plant, the company has been shipping the raw material to the Bellemont plant from across the country.

Although it was not clear when they first closed the Flagstaff plant, Bellcourt said, the company soon realized it would be more efficient to roll in the production done by the Bellemont factory with larger facilities in the United States.

Bellcourt welcomed those working at the factory to apply for any open jobs at other Essity facilities in the U.S. According to a press release, layoffs will begin in stages starting in as few as 53 days and continuing until the factory's final closure.

The change is projected to save the company about $17,046,900.

Director of the Coconino County Career Center Carol Curtis said they received notice of the closure late last week. Curtis said the county is in contact with both the company and the union representative and will likely organize a job fair for the factory’s employees similar to the one held after the Flagstaff plant closed.

Curtis said in her experience, such workers are highly sought after, with paper manufacturers sending representatives to the fair from as far away as Georgia, although she said the county generally prefers to keep people in the area.

The factory represented one of the last paper product manufacturers in the Flagstaff area, which once had as many as five paper-related factories, Curtis said.

The Bellemont plant was the second high-profile closure announcement in a month, after the Flagstaff Sears location was among 46 nationwide targeted for shutdown in August. The Sears Auto Center closed late last month, but the store itself is planned to stay open until December.

Curtis said the county is also working to help the employees of the Flagstaff Sears and will be in the store’s break room helping employees update their resumes and plan for the future.

Both the closed Flagstaff plant and the Bellemont factory will continue to be owned by Essity and Bellcourt said the company has no plans for what may become of them or the land they inhabit.

Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at askabelund@azdailysun.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on twitter @AdrianSkabelund.

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