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Mohawk CEO Presents Story of Ingenuity and Growth at Paper Cluster Meeting

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is based on a news release from The Markens Group and information from the Mohawk website.

The New England Paper Cluster’s Growth Strategies Reception and Dinner on June 22, 2015, in Springfield, MA, brought together 70 paper industry executives from New England to learn best practices and discuss strategies for growing the industry. Among the speakers was Thomas D. O’Connor Jr., Chairman and CEO of Mohawk Fine Papers, who discussed his firm’s inspiring entrance into the envelope market with its new plant in South Hadley, MA.

O’Connor explained that Mohawk, North America’s largest privately-owned manufacturer of fine papers, envelopes and specialty substrates for commercial and digital printing, decided to enter the business when they realized that they could leverage their 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 that the firm chose to locate their new envelope plant in Western Massachusetts.

“We selected our new facility in South Hadley because the layout of the building is ideal for our manufacturing needs, the site required minimal construction prior to becoming operational, and there is an abundant pool of highly skilled envelope workers in Western Massachusetts," said O'Connor. The previous year, an envelope manufacturer had closed in the area.

Building success from what some may call a failure, Mohawk’s South Hadley plant is now up and running after a $2 million retrofit, and the company plans to produce more than 500 million envelopes annually and hire up to 100 workers as the operation grows.

“We are facing a radically changing industry,” said 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.”

In May, Mohawk entered into an exclusive agreement with Arjowiggins Creative Papers, the world’s leading manufacturer of creative and technical papers with manufacturing facilities in Europe and Asia. The two will share best-in-class manufacturing capabilities, facilities, technologies, sales and marketing resources and expertise.

As a leader in environmentally and socially responsible business practices, Mohawk was the first U.S. manufacturer of commercial printing papers to match 100% of its electricity with wind power renewable energy credits and the first U.S. premium paper mill to shift toward carbon neutral production. Mohawk’s portfolio of recycled papers is certified by Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In April, Mohawk was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ‘National Top 100 List’ of Green Power Users for the tenth year in a row.

"Insightful, forward-thinking companies such as Mohawk are supporting the local paper economy by locating plants in New England,” said Ben Markens, Principal of The Markens Group and President of The Paperboard Packaging Council.

At the dinner Markens also reviewed the Paper and Packaging Board’s upcoming campaign to promote paper products nationwide, and U.S. Congressman Richard Neal presented an economic update. Lou Kornet, Vice President of the Paperboard Packaging Council, discussed the negative impact of single-stream recycling programs on the supply of recycled fiber, and Paul Bitters, Product Development Manager at Paperlogic, gave an update on the firm’s work on nanocellulose, an innovative type of paper that is thin yet highly tear- and water-resistant.

“I’m thrilled at the event’s turn-out and the amount of valuable content shared,” said David Southworth, acting chair of the New England Paper Cluster whose mission it 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. “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.”

For more information about Mohawk go to: mohawkconnects.com. To learn more about the New England Paper Cluser, go to: papercluster.org.

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