A major area employer will end its production today, leaving 63 hourly employees out of work.

Kimberly-Clark told workers at its Ryegate facility Nov. 30 that it would be closing its local plant today. The facility produced specialty paper.

State officials are now actively seeking a paper manufacturing company to replace Kimberly-Clark at the local facility.

"It is going to be a tough one because of the economy, but we managed to do the same thing at the paper mill in Gilman," said George Robson, natural products specialist with the Vermont Department of Economic Development in Montpelier.

Robson dealt with the purchase of the Gilman paper mill by American Tissue over a year ago.

Ryegate residents are concerned about the future of the building that housed Kimberly-Clark, said Rep. Leigh Larocque, R-Barnet.

Larocque met with Ryegate Selectman Ted Clark, Robson and Northeastern Vermont Development Association executive director John Hall last week to discuss possibilities for the plant facility.

If a paper manufacturer can & #039;t be found, there are other avenues to investigate as well, Larocque said.

"The new building could be subdivided and used by a lot of different companies," he said, adding it is too early to tell what will happen.

Town officials have not received firm information from the company about what it will do with the property after work ends. They expect to hear more in another month.

The facility has convenient access to any company that sets up operation there because the railroad track goes right by it and freight cars can back right into it, Clark said. It is also near the interstate, he added.

Clark said if his wish came true, the building will again be used as a paper mill. "Our best wish would be to see someone in the paper industry buy it and put these people back to work."

State and regional officials said they are working hard to make Clark & #039;s wish happen. Paper companies throughout the United States and Canada have been contacted by state officials touting the favorable facility and work force in Ryegate, said Ken Horseman, director of communications for the Vermont Department of Economic Development.

The department is also working closely with the town and the company to see what options might present themselves.

"We have made a number of contacts to a number of companies throughout the U.S. and Canada, we are talking to other paper product companies and we are hopeful that something will turn up," Horseman said, adding that the conversations at this stage are very preliminary.

The state is proactively seeking out companies, first of all to make them aware that the facility exists, he said.

"As I understand it, Kimberly-Clark simply decided to cease operation on a third plant that made a line of coated paper," Horseman said. "There are two others in a shrinking market (in other parts of the country)."


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