The largest property taxpayer in Sprague and one of the community's largest employers, Fusion Paperboard, has told authorities its mill will close in September.
Some 145 employees have received 60 days' notice that they'll be losing their jobs. Just three months ago they agreed on a new contract, which was set to last six years.
According to a press release from the company, the paper mill has manufactured recycled boxboard since the 1960s.
"They knew that this was gonna happen six months to a year ago," said Rich Harrelle, local leader for the United Steelworkers. "So that's my problem. The other thing is, I have a hard time digesting the fact we're going to lose 140 jobs in the community."
Harrelle said the mill has a 17-day backlog of orders for its pizza boxes and bakery boxes made of paperboard, all from recycled paper. He's afraid the company is going to dismantle its paper machine and ship it out of state, making it unlikely that a new company would take over.
In a statement, Fusion Paperboard blamed "increasingly difficult market conditions" for the mill's closure.
"Despite recent efforts, the operation can no longer be sustained. We will make every effort to fulfill existing orders and help customers as they transition to alternate suppliers," the statement continues. "Fusion will coordinate with state and private agencies to assist employment transition of its 140 employees."
State and local authorities expect the company to repay a $3-million loan issued last year. They also pledge to help employees find work.