New England Paper Cluster Hears from Mohawk CEO

SPRINGFIELD, MA | The New England Paper Cluster recently held a Growth Strategies Reception and Dinner that brought together 70 paper industry executives from New England to learn best practices and discuss strategies for growing the industry. The mission of the group, according to its website, is to promote the paper industry in New England, educate members through the ongoing exchange of ideas and strategies, and provide critical business intelligence so as to enhance competitiveness and overall success.

Among the speakers at the dinner was Thomas D. O’Connor Jr., chairman and CEO of Mohawk Fine Papers. O’Connor discussed his firm’s inspiring entrance into the envelope market with its new plant in South Hadley, MA, explaining that Mohawk decided to enter the business when the company realized it could leverage existing paper distribution channels to distribute envelopes to customers. After identifying this key opportunity but in need of a skilled labor force, O’Connor said the firm chose to locate its new envelope plant in Western Massachusetts because the area is rich in skilled, experienced laborers, especially after Cenveo shut down an envelope facility in the area last year. Building success from what some may call a failure, said O’Connor, Mohawk’s South Hadley plant is now up and running, and the company plans to hire up to 100 workers as the operation grows

“We are facing a radically changing industry,” added O’Connor, “but there are always opportunities for growth. Our new envelope converting facility in South Hadley is just one example; we plan to continue to broaden our expertise and offerings, create demand for products within new market segments, and develop strategic partnerships to capitalize on growth.”

Attendees at the dinner also received an economic update from US Congressman Richard Neal. Ben Markens, president of The Markens Group, reviewed the Paper and Packaging Board’s upcoming campaign to promote paper products nationwide, and Lou Kornet, VP of the Paperboard Packaging Council, discussed the negative impact of single-stream recycling programs on the supply of recycled fiber. In addition, Paul Bitters, product development manager at Paperlogic, offered an update on the firm’s work on nanocellulose, said to be an innovative type of paper that is thin yet highly tear- and water-resistant.

“I’m thrilled at the event’s turnout and the amount of valuable content shared,” says David Southworth, acting chair of the New England Paper Cluster. “Our goal was to bring members of the regional paper industry together to discuss common challenges and opportunities, and I believe the reception and dinner did just that.”

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