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Auctioning Wausau's Past
Ten months ago, the Wausau Paper plant in Groveton closed its doors and laid off 303 workers.
An investor has purchased the plant with plans to sell it off to other investors or developers.
In the meantime, he had to sell off the equipment with which so many North Country men and women had made their living for so many years.
That happened Wednesday at an auction that ended any hope that somehow the paper plant would be brought back to life.
NHPR Correspondent Chris Jensen has the story.
At a motel in Lancaster, about a hundred bidders gathered to find a good deal on tools, industrial equipment, and office furniture.
David Atkinson was one of them.
“It is very bittersweet. I pretty much knew probably the middle of the summer, late spring that the best income for the facility was not going to be the case and it was going to go down this road.”
Atkinson used to be the vice president of operations at the Wausau Plant.
He was the third generation of his family to work there.
But on Wednesday he was at the auction to help his new employer, a contractor, buy some tools.
MORE AUCTION SOUNDS.
The auctioneer had the classic machine-gun pace, the cajoling.
His pitch was interrupted only by the “yups” of auction workers noting a new bid.
Capital Recovery Group of Connecticut was selling the equipment.
It controls Groveton Acquisitions, which bought the plant and equipment for an undisclosed sum.
In addition to those gathered at the motel, about 100 bidders participated through the internet.
They had names like “Digger56” and “Electricbarn” and “Fran, ” and ranged from as far away as Peru and Pakistan.
Many of the nearly 100 bidders in the room came from the North Country.
All of them were calm and calculating.
This wasn’t for fun.
It was business and that’s how it looked.
Keith Bronson came from up the road in Groveton.
He owns a welding and fabrication business.
Like so many people in Groveton he has a connection with the paper plant.
He’d seen it in happier days.
“I have seen it running. My Dad and a lot of my family has worked in that mill.”
But at the auction he was looking for bargains for his own business.
Photos of the equipment flashed on a screen.
Bill Firestone, the president of Capital Recovery Group, was also one of the auctioneers.
He mocked dismay at some of the bids.
SOUND OF FIRETONE including saying “you’re stealing it.”
Things moved along but hundreds of items filled the inventory… A very large factory’s worth.
$1,250 for “assorted hand tools.”
$1,600 for a Wilton 20-inch vertical variable speed drill press.
The auction divided up bits and pieces of the North Country’s industrial past.
The paper processing equipment is to be sold later.
The factory’s new owner, Bill Firestone told the crowd that several companies have approached him about the buildings and land.
But he offered no details.
He has said his ideal buyer would use the facility to provide jobs and help the town.
For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen
SOUND OF AUCTION