The sale of a closed paper mill in Duluth, Minnesota will bring back at least 80 jobs to the region. It's the latest move affecting Wisconsin workers in a roiling paper industry.

Verso Corp. announced Monday that it would sell its Duluth mill, which employed more than 200 people in the Duluth-Superior area before it closed last year, to the Virginia-based ST Paper and Tissue. That company, which also operates a mill in Oconto Falls, will invest a reported $54 million to convert the Duluth facility into a manufacturer of recycled-paper napkins and other tissues. 

It's part of broader shifts in the paper industry that are being felt at other Wisconsin manufacturers and in related industries such as logging. Two growing parts of the paper industry are the production of recycled products and of the corrugated cardboard used for shipping boxes.

"That's a direction that we're seeing the industry going: Conversion of mills to make packaging, and the opportunity to make recycled board is also pretty attractive to manufacturers," said Paul Fowler, executive director of the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

The Verso mill's sale follows an announcement last week that the South Carolina-based Domtar had been sold to the Canadian company Paper Excellence in a $3 billion deal. Domtar operates mills in Rothschild and Nekoosa. A company spokeswoman said the sale will not affect mill operations, but Domtar has already remade other mills. Last year it announced that it would close and repurpose a mill in Kingsport, Tennessee, turning it into a packaging manufacturer.

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