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In the past year and a half, paper products have spent some unexpected time in the spotlight: from the beginning of the pandemic when toilet paper became scarce on store shelves through now, when TP is readily available once again — thank goodness — but disinfecting wipes remain in high demand. During my last visit to Target, quantity limits were still in place on wipes purchases. The sustained demand is good news for tissue makers like Georgia-Pacific and Kimberly-Clark as well as converters like Rockline Industries, which makes disinfecting wipes and coffee filters — also an important commodity for java lovers like me.

As you’ll learn in this month’s cover story, the paper industry is performing well overall, but the industry isn’t without its challenges. While Green Bay Packaging, Georgia-Pacific and Rockline Industries are expanding, Neenah Paper and Clearwater Paper in the Fox Cities, as well as Verso in Wisconsin Rapids, closed facilities. Like every other industry, paper companies need workers and are seeking ways to show young talent that they offer rewarding and engaging careers. Turn to page 12 to read MaryBeth Matzek’s story for a look at how the industry is faring and details on a research study underway looking at the challenges and opportunities papermakers face. 

Speaking of talent, high schools and employers are placing an increased emphasis on youth apprenticeship and co-op programs, which can provide a pathway to high-paying careers for young people. “Those students get an opportunity to see, what does this potential career look like before getting too far into it,” says Jeff Gaecke of the Mechanical Contractors Association. After all, he says, it’s just as valuable to learn what you don’t like as what you do. Check out my story on page 22 to learn more about the benefits of engaging young people at an early age.

If you’re feeling like me, you could use a little hope right now. After talking with Manufacturing First Expo & Conference keynote speaker Dr. Rick Rigsby, I’m confident he will deliver attendees a dose of hope and inspiration when they need it most. Rigsby has suffered his share of adversity and will share words of wisdom designed to help people rediscover their perspective and resolve. Following Rigsby’s speech, Oshkosh Corp. President and CEO John Pfeifer will share his thoughts — the manufacturer has had a big year — and you’ll get to choose from several breakout sessions presented on pressing topics facing the industry. I look forward to seeing you Oct. 27, and until then, keep up those healthy habits and stay well.