GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Paper industry leaders from Italy visited Green Bay on Monday.
It was a reminder of the strong partnership between Northeast Wisconsin paper manufacturers and those in Luca, Italy. But, also, a conversation about what needs to be done.
If you ask Georgia-Pacific Vice President of Operations Tim Ellsworth what the hiring climate was like 10 years ago, he'd say: “We’d have five, six hundred applications -- people waiting at the door, standing there to get in."
Now Georgia-Pacific is struggling to hire the additional 100 people it needs to accommodate an expansion.
“Especially in these last few years, productivity, in general, has gone a little down. Lots of turnovers had created low productivity," said Luigi Lazzareschi, CEO at Sofidel.
Lazzareschi says without having ties in Green Bay, there is no way a global paper business can make it in the U.S. market.
“A lot of paper machine manufacturers have the possibility, I can imagine, to increase technology. But, also, luckily, probably some investments to be made to increase let's say the number of engineers -- mechanical and electrical engineers" said Lazzareschi.
The Italian visitors are here to work through some of the paper industry's obstacles.
Stan Blakney, president at Paper Converting Machine Company, says PCMC is already putting strategies into place.
“For us, we’re always concentrating on automation and sustainability, so we’ve come out with a number of new products that enable our customers, like a Sofidel or a Georgia-Pacific, to improve their productivity with fewer employees," said Blakney.
Blakney says the more leveraged production from Green Bay to Luca, the more secure the work will be for employees.
“We’re producing globally, and so, we can level the workload on all of our facilities based on the projects that are coming in around the world," said Blakney.
The paper industry leaders say overall, Northeast Wisconsin is still a giant in the global market, and with the right tools and people, it will continue.