Look to create fresh start for district

The steam continues to rise from the Resolute kraft mill in Fort Frances. The steam still pours through the vents above the paper machines today.
But most workers still employed in the Resolute mill at Fort Frances have received termination notices.
The company has committed to keeping the heat in the buildings through this winter at a significant cost to corporate profits. Resolute has said it hopes to reposition this mill and be able to bring back workers.
When I came back from university in 1972, the kraft mill was nearing completion and the workforce again had reached more than 1,100 men and women.
Good days were on the horizon. Modernization followed in the next decade, with computers and mechanization replacing manual controls and manual labour.
Improvements to the paper machines in the 1980s increased the capacity of the mill to make money and prosper. The paper and kraft mills here were capable of making in some months $15 million in profit.
It did not come without changes. Hiring was frozen and the workforce declined annually through attrition and moves. Research, engineering, and software development that increased production was moved to other corporate locations as the Fort mill was bought and sold through a series of ownership changes.
Computers soon were found in every household, and giant education and knowledge acquisition changes were occurring. Magazines, radio stations, television newscasters, and newspapers put their information on the web. The result was that fewer readers turned to paper to read today’s news.
One of the big changes came on 9/11, when everyone wanted instantaneous information about the terrorists.
Only the Internet could meet the demand. By the time the details were printed, the information was old.
Retailers learned they could produce catalogues without paper. And consumers would respond and buy the products through the Internet—and often they could be delivered to doorsteps at no cost.
Flyers had grown in size through the two decades leading to the 21 century. But the cost of paper and ink encouraged the Canadian Tires, Wal-Marts, Safeways, Loblaws, and Home Depots to shrink the size of the flyers and often make the images and information smaller.
Newspapers, too, reduced the page size from 16 inches wide to 14 inches to 12.5 inches. And the amount of news in papers and in magazines was reduced.
Paper mills closed.
Book publishers, meanwhile, discovered they could make direct sales to readers without putting a single drop of ink on paper. A $30 book instantly was transformed to a $15 book.
Book publishers took their printing to China, Malaysia, and India instead of North America.
As consumers, we lapped up the savings.
Locally, as Internet service improved, we rose to take advantage of all the new shopping options. And as we chose to make those changes, we, as well as consumers in the world, began the 1,000 cuts that would lead to the end of paper-making as we knew it in Rainy River District.
As those last 160 workers receive their notices, we can look with nostalgia of what for the last century was the driving economic force in Rainy River District.
But maybe, just maybe, we should be looking at what we can do to create a fresh start for the district.

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