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Maine’s pulp and paper industry by the numbers

In the days when paper was king, the industry employed thousands of workers in Maine. (WGME)

AUGUSTA (WGME) – In the days when paper was king, the industry employed thousands of workers in Maine.

According to the Department of Labor, pulp and paper mills employed 18,000 workers through the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. When demand was high, 11 pulp and paper mills were operational.

Things started to change in the late 80s, and in less than three years, five mills closed their doors. In 2016 the industry accounted for approximately 4,000 jobs statewide. Now only six pulp and paper mills are still operating.

Despite the downturn the executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council says the industry is still “a big economic machine.” Patrick Strauch said those in northern Maine often argue the forest industry is just as important as tourism in the south.

“We always fight over what the total numbers are,” Strauch said. “But I think you can say that tourism has a strong coastal influence and our industry is going to have a very strong rural economy kind of influence.”

According to a study conducted by the council and the University of Maine found the forest product industry remains a large player in Maine’s economy. In 2016 the study reported the industry had an $8.5 billion economic impact.

“That’s a big percentage,” Strauch said. “I think a 5 or 6 percentage of the gross domestic product. We have gone through some transitions and we’re in the middle of some of those transitions but we’re very much alive and kicking and growing kind of industry.

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