Paper Cuts: Oregon’s Declining Paper Industry
Paper manufacturing began in Oregon with the Pioneer Paper Manufacturing Company in 1866, but the mill closed in less than a year. The Clackamas Paper Manufacturing Company opened in 1868 and was followed by Willamette Pulp and Paper in 1889 near Oregon City. The Crown Mill opened in 1890, and Hawley Pulp and Paper opened in 1909. Some of the early mills struggled with uncertain manufacturing processes and could not produce enough paper to be profitable. Newsprint was an important product for early mills.
The modern paper industry in Oregon has two major divisions: the pulp and paper manufacturing side with 11 facilities, and the converted paper products (such as box making) side that has 43 facilities. There are a multitude of types of paper manufactured: containerboard, tissue, newsprint, paperboard, copying paper, coated and uncoated, and a nearly endless list of specialty papers.
Employment in paper manufacturing in Oregon has declined for decades, but it remains an important industry in the state. Paper manufacturing provides about 4,200 jobs in Oregon, down from around 10,000 in 1976. In 1976, paper manufacturing accounted for a little more than 5 percent of Oregon’s manufacturing jobs; by 2016 its share was down to 2.3 percent of manufacturing employment. In this respect it is similar to the wood products industry, which fell from about 40 percent of Oregon’s manufacturing jobs to about 12 percent over the period.
The drop in employment over the years is only partly due to decreasing output. Physical output in 2015 was only 15 percent lower than in 2001 yet employment fell by 41 percent over those years. Since 1997 the value of output has varied from nearly $1.3 billion to $734 million to (2009 dollars), but the industry’s employment has steadily declined in Oregon.