Global and domestic competition in the paper industry is among the changes and challenges faced by the Georgia-Pacific mill, in Camas.
That is according to Joe Ertolacci, the vice president of manufacturing for the mill.
There is increased global competition in the production of copy paper in China and South America and other communications papers and new domestic producers of tissues, paper towels and napkins in the commercial and consumer private label industry.
Ertolacci, 55, served most recently as the operations manager at the G-P mill in Crossett, Ark. He has worked in the paper industry for 24 years.
Ertolacci has succeeded Gary Kaiser as the new mill manager, in Camas. Kaiser is the mill manager of the facility in Crossett.
At the Camas mill, there are 488 employees and two paper machines.
That compares to 1,160 employees in 2004.
“We are making fewer products today than we were more than 10 years ago,” Ertolacci said. “Many of the specialty items Camas made in the past have shrunk in overall market volume to a point where it no longer made sense for us to participate in that market.”
He mentioned the increase in electronic banking has reduced the need for security paper that is used for printed checks.
In the mid 1970s, the mill had 15 paper machines and more than 2,800 employees.
“It was like its own city,” Ertolacci said.
“There is a legacy of entire families working here,” he added. “There is an element of pride in the people.”
Ertolacci arrived in Camas in August 2013. He traveled back and forth to Arkansas, until January.
Ertolacci has held town halls and other “meet and greet” opportunities for mill employees.
Those sessions enable workers to “put a face with the name,” hesaid.
In February, mill employees recorded 600 days without injuries — dating back to 2012.
“That is impressive in this industry,” Ertolacci said.
The mill received the CEO Safety Excellence Award in August 2013.
During a tour of the mill Thursday, Ertolacci talked about an automated system that pushes rolls of paper off of a moving floor conveyor. It minimizes employees’ back strains.
Ertolacci said earning the right to operate includes focusing on the safety of people and excellent environmental stewardship and compliance, as well as creating value.
“We want to be invisible to the community but visible in the community,” he said.
That includes mill employees volunteering with local Scouting organizations, athletic teams, churches and development boards.
“That’s where we want to be visible,” Ertolacci said. “We don’t want you to smell us or hear us.
“We are very proud of what we do for the community,” he added.
That includes paying more than $3 million in annual property taxes and more than $1.5 million in annual excise taxes.
The Camas mill has an annual payroll of more than $45 million, with an average hourly rate of $27. The average hourly years of service is 25.
The mill encompasses 656 acres, including Lady Island. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The mill produces Spectrum Multi-Use, Spectrum 100% Recycled Multi-Use, GP Advantage Multi-Use and many private label copy brands. Spectrum brand printing and writing grades — sold to printers and converters in roll form — are also made at the mill, as well as a variety of tissues and towels. They include Acclaim, enMotion, Bigfold and SofPull towels.
Most of the products manufactured at the Camas mill are sold in the continental United States.
The pulp and paper mill has been in downtown Camas since 1883. A fire destroyed the mill in 1886, and the mill was rebuilt two years later.
Georgia-Pacific is a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries.
Ertolacci joined G-P in 1990 as a project engineer at the facility in Green Bay, Wis. He has also worked at the G-P mill in Wauna, Ore.
Ertolacci is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was enlisted, as well as a commissioned officer. Ertolacci earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in 1983. He received a master’s of business administration from Cardinal Stritch University, in Milwaukee, Wis.
The Camas mill is located at 401 N.E. Adams St. For more information, call 834-3021 or visit www.gp.com.