Geraldine’s Study Published in the Mount Pleasant Observer
Geraldine is two-thirds of the way through her degree course at FDC University at Mount Pleasant, studying economics and the environment. She has just completed a major study on the history of a pulp and paper mill focusing on long-term impacts. The results were published last week in the Mount Pleasant Observer and a condensed version is provided here.
The pulp and paper mill began as a lumber producer in the early 1900s. Wood and water supplies were extensive and readily available. Capital came from local business people. Throughout the next century the mill diversified and expanded adding high quality pulp and grades of paper products including unbleached kraft and tissue.
Diversification and product-line expansion required a whole new level of technology and sophisticated processes. Capital requirements were considerable as were the recruiting and training of new personnel. Up-to-date applied sciences reduced emission problems that were a plague for many years.
Changes in the industry such as slowing demand, consolidation and the ability to maintain a competitive position have had serious influences on the economics of the facility. Lower employment levels resulted in the predictable negative impact. A community once reliant on the mill suffered from a significant retraction. Presently the good news is the business continues. This is not the situation in many other cases where mills have closed entirely.
The manufacturing plant was the only significant contributor to the economy of the area for more than ten decades and remains a component to this day. There were periods of prosperity, declines, labor dissatisfaction and new directions. Early production methods had significant negative environmental consequences some of which are still clearly evident. Improved technology and capital availability did result in major efficiency increases, cost reduction and effluent elimination.
Geraldine concludes that this template of startup, growth, stability and decline have repeated themselves elsewhere time after time. The pattern has been the only way new industries can develop. There is no possibility every issue can be anticipated and solved ahead of time. The mill has been a vital part of the region’s prosperity. On balance the industry and the mill have provided significant benefits for all the stakeholders.
Observer readers clearly have concerns about Geraldine’s conclusions. Controversy stems from health problems caused by mill effluents, the effect on the watershed and inadequate forestry practice. As well because markets have changed so much, the mill’s operating level is now significantly reduced from earlier periods. This is having a major negative effect on the regional economy. A spate of angry readers blame management for lack of foresight, poor resource stewardship, irresponsible environmental practices and leaving the community with a weakened employer. Added to the mix is dissatisfaction because the various mill owners did not live up commitments made when government programs supported the mill during periods of economic stress.
Geraldine received an A+ mark for her paper. Subsequently Geraldine and her professor agreed to study the experience of this facility and similar ones elsewhere. The objectives are to determine long-term programs which will in the future mitigate against like outcomes. Results of this research will be published in the Observer when available.