ABOVE: Russ Wanke (left), president and CEO of Expera, and Larry N. Montague (right) of TAPPI


Words to live by: Turning Pulp into Possibilities; Making Big Ideas Fly; All Custom Specifications; To Protect our Customer’s Products; We Design to Our Customer’s Specification; Bigger, Brighter, and Stronger Together.

The above words do not describe the normal company involved in pulp and paper; however, they do describe one of the very special companies in our industry—Expera Specialty Solutions™.

The Company

Scott Springmier, Tess Ventress, and I had the privilege of sitting down with Expera’s Russ Wanke, president and CEO, and several of his senior management team on Wednesday, February 12. This meeting was to discover more about the transformation of North America’s largest manufacturer of specialty paper solutions with a leading portfolio of brands. The group gathered, just in the conference room, had a combined 187 years of experience in our industry.

Expera employs 1,800 talented people and has four mills located in Kaukauna, De Pere, Mosinee, and Rhinelander, Wis., USA. In addition, it has a supply agreement with a bleached pulp mill in Maine. The company-owned facilities contain 16 paper machines, two coaters, and two unbleached pulp mills.

The Name

What’s in a name? Customers have explained that they turned to Expera for its Expertise andExperience. This combined with a new Era for all four facilities doing things that others say can’t be done resulted in Expera Specialty Solutions.

The Product Lines

New products represent an industry-unprecedented 25% of Expera’s sales each year. The company’s product sectors include Industrial & Technical Specialties, Food, and Pressure Sensitive Release Liners. Key applications include:

  • Interleaver for steel and glass
  • Gumming and masking tapes
  • Saturating and laminating base
  • Flame resistant
  • Insulation
  • Electrical
  • School kraft
  • Medical disposables
  • Microwave popcorn bags
  • Quick service restaurant
  • Food service
  • Parchmentizing
  • Flexible Packaging
  • Pan Liner, baking, and confectionary cup stock
  • Meat and dairy interleaver
  • Bacon layout
  • Prime and variable information labels
  • Industrial tapes and sealants
  • Fiber composite
  • Medical, hygiene, and casting (casting example—the new Dreamliner jet).

The Downside

When we asked the group about the downsides to their business, the resounding answer was regulation. This continues to be our industry’s biggest competition. To that point, we specifically discussed the Industrial Boiler MACT legislation requiring hard decisions for companies in the U.S. who depend on solid fuel boilers to manufacture their products. The costs to comply with some of the pending legislation will equate to 5% - 10% of payroll in some cases, or up to four years of discretionary capital spending that otherwise could provide better products and employ more people in the U.S.

Our Thanks

The Expera team members who met with us included Russ Wanke, Sue Manders, Robyn Buss, Ann Funk, John Katchko, Rob McNutt, Lee Hammen, Jeff Verdoorn, and Addie Teeters.

We enjoyed our visit with Expera Specialty Solutions™. I believe they are poised for great things with their leadership team and product lines.

More information on Expera is available online.
More information about TAPPI is also available online.

"There are two types of people in our industry—TAPPI members and those who should be."

Until next time,

Larry