Performance and Portage Paper Companies

In 1988, Michael Gallenberger, an Illinois businessman, spent most of the year negotiating with Hanson PLC to buy the former Allied Paper Bryant Mill in Kalamazoo. He promised to spend $10 million on upgrades to the mill. This purchase involved getting pay and benefit concessions from the 304 union workers left at that time. These concessions were rejected by union members on August 31st but were approved in a second vote on October 14th by a 51 to 49 percent margin. Article - Page 1 - Page 2.

By December 31st the purchase had been concluded and the new company, called Performance Papers Inc, started up early in 1989. Article Page 1 - Page 2. All environmental cleanup responsibilities remained with Hanson PLC. Alas, the paper business slumped in 1989. Due to slow sales of their specialty papers and increased costs, Performance Papers had to close on November 9, 1989. It had been in operation for less than a year.

In early 1990, the Norfolk Paper Company started negotiating with Performance Paper to reopen the Bryant Mill. Getting financing proved to be difficult but by November 1991 a lease agreement had been signed. The new company was named Portage Paper Co. In May 1992 production restarted with Michael Gallenberger as general manager. The plan was for the mill to use recycled corrugated containers and clippings from box plants to make butchers' paper. This is paper used to buffer sheets of metal and small lunch bags.

This operation proved to be successful but after 5 years of operation, Portage Paper closed its doors on February 13, 1997, citing 18 months of significant operating losses caused by a combination of insufficient capital plus a very weak and unstable paper market. More than 140 people lost their jobs.

After this closure, GAF Corporation attempted to lease the Bryant Mill site and use it for manufacturing roofing-felt. They anticipated employing 50 to 60 workers and producing 45,000 tons of roofing felt each year. Investment of $20 million was promised and a 10-year lease was signed but alas, this operation did not come to pass.

After sitting empty and unused for some 7 years, demolition of Bryant Mill started in 2004. See for an online mill tour after closure and photos of the mill demolition.

For the chain of environmental liability click here.

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Last Edited by JMW 11/07/15