The Port Edwards Paper Mill: A Return on Investment Study

WIPPS Research Partners was contracted by the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (NCWWDB) to carry out a major study of over 500 displaced paper mill workers from the Domtar Corporation paper mill in Port Edwards, Wisconsin which closed in summer 2008. The goal was to find out how workers had fared eight years later in order to understand the return on investment of worker retraining programs and job counseling provided by NCWWDB. WIPPS researchers designed, tested and implemented a unique study on the effectiveness of worker re-training which saw a 40 percent response rate. Results showed that retraining programs significantly enhanced the probability of former mill workers finding new jobs (86.9 percent to 75.5 percent). Retrained workers also experienced higher levels of life and career satisfaction, more favorable views of new career situations, perceptions of greater job security, improved chances for career advancement, and a more positive outlook about the future. Rene Daniels, executive director of the NCWWDB, stated, “Frankly, we were stunned. We think the results are absolutely phenomenal.” The survey included a unique geospatial analysis section which helped identify the percentage of mill workers still residing and working within the local labor shed, average commute times to work and other key information. Results were widely reported in the media, including in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and on National Public Radio’s Marketplace in September 2017.