As images of toilet paper shortages raced through social media in coronavirus panic buying, Wisconsin paper makers hustled to shore up the supply chain.
America’s Dairyland is the nation’s No. 1 paper manufacturer, cranking out $13.8 billion in products annually and employing 30,000 people. The city of Green Bay has been dubbed by some as the ‘toilet paper capitol of the world.’
The industry went into overdrive when shoppers snapped up every roll of toilet paper they could find in recent weeks, fearing they would run out if they were quarantined at home.
Georgia Pacific Corp., in Green Bay, saw its orders for household toilet paper and paper towels double, while demand for the ubiquitous products at airports, hotels and other public venues softened.
In fact, Wisconsin’s stalwart paper industry is well positioned to thrive during coronavirus even as other industries, such as business travel and tourism, teeter on the edge of a meltdown.
That’s encouraging for the industry that’s seen the closure of plants in the Fox Valley and northern Wisconsin over the last two decades.
“Paper took some hits, but it’s learned to be much lighter on its feet and is positioned to remain so in this current crisis,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, in Madison.
Statewide, there are 35 pulp, paper and paperboard mills with a total annual payroll of nearly $2.5 billion, according to industry figures. The industry pays about $214 million in state and local taxes.