Flambeau River Papers

Flambeau River Papers can trace its origins back more than 100 years. Based in Park Falls in Wisconsin’s northern Price County, the Flambeau mill has produced quality printing and specialty papers for decades. Flambeau River Papers was founded after William “Butch” Johnson purchased the company in the wake of Smart Papers filing bankruptcy in 2006. 

“Butch was the sole provider of pulp wood to the operation and had a vested interest in keeping 285 people working,” Vice President of Operations Aaron Johnson says. “Today, our commitment to innovation, community and environmental stewardship has never been stronger. Flambeau has reinvented the idea of the mill, investing in cutting-edge improvements, bringing skilled jobs to the Park Falls area and pledging to lessen the mill’s impact on the environment.” 

Diverse Abilities

Now employing 330 people, Flambeau River Papers offers a wide variety of premium paper manufactured at its state-of-the-art mill. It strives to offer superior paper quality utilizing processes that are as eco-friendly as possible. The company’s diverse paper product offerings meet the needs of a range of businesses. 

Among its offerings are premium printing papers made with lean manufacturing processes and a commitment to quality. Its printing papers are known for brightness, stiffness, excellent print surface and superior press performance, as well as being ideal for archiving and digital printing. Flambeau also produces converting papers that can be used for everything from folding and dye-cutting to gluing and embossing. 

Additionally, Flambeau River Papers produces durable papers for a broad range of book printing needs. It says its acid-free book papers offer superior color uniformity, opacity and caliper control. The company also produces versatile, acid-free art papers with features such as superior paint holdout, watercolor suitability and eraseability.

Beyond that, it can serve customers with specialty paper needs. Its specialty papers are available in a wide variety of basis weights and feature many finish options, from calendered to uncalendered. These papers feature benefits such as strength, ink holdout, folding endurance and embossability. Flambeau River Papers also has the operational capacity to produce an array of premium fluorescent papers on request.

“We have three paper machines with annual volume of 150,000 tons of uncoated free-sheet as well as three batch digesters that produce 175 tons of sulphite pulp daily,” Johnson explains. “Our de-ink operations produce 70 tons of 100 percent-recycled pulp.”

Offering a wide spectrum of paper from bond, text and cover to wet-strength, FDA-approved and inhibiting paper is a competitive advantage for Flambeau River Papers. But what it feels makes it unique and viable is its ability to work with customers and develop unique grades for their specific applications. “Being a small, family owned paper mill gives us the ability to react quickly to continue meeting our customers’ needs,” Johnson says. 

Looking Ahead

Flambeau River Papers aims to be one of North America’s most forward-thinking paper manufacturers. It does this through a focus on innovative, sustainable manufacturing practices, dedication to environmental responsibility and commitment to job creation. It has invested more than $24 million in energy, process and infrastructure improvements since 2006.

As the company works to improve service and expand its reach, it is focused on continuing to break through into specialty application markets through its product development team and strong relationship with Cellmark Paper, which is its sales and marketing force. 

Thanks to the relationship with Cellmark, Flambeau River Papers says it continues to find successful avenues into the specialty, text/cover, FDA, wet strength and bond/offset markets.   

Flambeau has been making a number of key investments in the organization, too. The advantages offered by its manufacturing operation include 100 percent chlorine-free operation, which lessens environmental impact. It offers several grades of paper made with 30 to 100 percent post-consumer fiber, and it is ISO 9001- and ISO 14001-compliant for increased quality control. The company also has Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifications to ensure responsible forestry practices and maintains chain of custody throughout the supply chain.

Through multi-step quality assurance measures, Flambeau River Papers can offer consistent-quality product. The company is also engaged in lignin production. Lignin is a byproduct of the pulping process that is a non-toxic binding agent used in many product applications. Flambeau extracts it for sale to industrial clients in the United States, Canada and Mexico. 

“Our pulp byproduct has various markets including dust control, admixture and sugar substitute,” Johnson says.

Along with infrastructure and capital projects, Flambeau’s biggest investment has been in people. The mill continues to recruit, train and retain employees. It prefers individuals who can thrive in a fast-paced mill that continuously seeks improvement, innovation and value-added products and processes. In fact, the company has utilized team member input over the last five years to improve fuel process, enhance innovation and boost operating efficiency. Overall, process improvements, equipment upgrades and increased quality assurance efforts have greatly aided Flambeau River Papers.

“Our growth goals are focused on continuing to break into specialty paper markets,” Johnson says. “Annually, we are committed to turning over our bottom 25 percent of sales and replacing them with specialty products. Our challenges will be regulatory burdens, but our priorities are to continue our specialty growth and provide the best value in the marketplace.”  

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