The Demise of Great Northern Paper

Of all the reasons for the demise of the Great Northern that I have heard or imagined, the one that seems the most likely is that its demise was assured on that day in 1970 when it merged with Nekoosa-Edwards and ceased to be the Great Northern Paper Company.

Some of the other things (the Indian land claim, the spruce budworm, the Big A Dam, and others) probably played their parts in quickening the mill’s demise), but things were never the same after GNP quit being GNP, and became Great Northern Nekoosa.

Someone tried to tell me the other day that the labor unions were the cause of Great Northern’s demise, as some of the unions refused to agree to concessions. I believe that is shortsighted, as by the time a company has to come to the unions for concessions, it’s already on its way down. 

No, the Great Northern had always contended with labor unions, and done so successfully.

Further illustrating the strong relationship between the town and the mill, census figures will demonstrate that Millinocket’s population peaked in 1970, and has been in a steady decline ever since, worsening every time the ownership of the mill changes hands.

It was during the 1970s that new high school graduates could no longer be assured of finding employment in the mill, and there were few employment alternatives that didn’t involve moving out of town or commuting long distances.

The only other industry in town has been the Millinocket Foundry and Machine Company, a small industry that has been around almost since the beginning, or at least as early as 1906, but it employs only about thirty people, at most.

© Michelle Anderson 2005-2014