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New Company Buys Park Falls Mill, Can’t Say Yet If It Will Reopen

Ben Meyer/WJFW

A new company will soon own the dormant Flambeau River Papers mill in Park Falls.

But it’s unclear whether it will reopen or if workers will be rehired.

Niagara Worldwide bought the mill this week for $2.2 million.

“From my understanding, if everything goes right, November 13, Flambeau River Papers will, I assume, cease to exist, and they will become part of Niagara Worldwide,” said Park Falls Mayor Michael Bablick.

The mill fell from 300 employees just two years ago to shutdowns this year as it went into receivership.

A proposed September sale to Element Ventures fell through before this week’s auction, in which Niagara Worldwide was the high bidder.

“[Niagara Worldwide is] an industrial redevelopment company, buys and sells, buys and redevelops, buys and operates industrial properties that have aged out or become obsolete, or, in this case, have shut down,” said company president Eric Spirtas.

Spirtas said it was too early to share plans on whether the mill will open again or hire back workers.

But Niagara Worldwide has worked with industrial facilities in eight states, including Brokaw and three others in Wisconsin, according to its website.

“Through those paper plant acquisitions, we have either bought and redeveloped and then sold portions or actually operated parts for a period, or operate components of that former paper plant ongoing and still currently today,” Spirtas said.

The mill has a century-long history in Park Falls.

It closed in 2006, then reopened when William “Butch” Johnson bought it with the help of the administration of then-Gov. Jim Doyle.

Bablick is happy the sale went through, but warned the city’s economy needs to keep diversifying beyond the mill.

“It’s no longer, I don’t think restoring all 300 jobs that were there two years ago.  I think, at this point, we’re looking, because the mill is currently shut down, is restoring part of the operation,” he said.

Niagara Worldwide should release more details next week.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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