General Business

One Year after Crippling Fire, Marcal Resumes Manufacturing

A year and a day since its devastating 10-alarm fire, Marcal Paper is back in business at its historic Elmwood Park facility. At an event today celebrating the achievement, Robert Baron, president and CEO of the company, stated, “We are going to rebuild everything we had lost.”

Some 400 jobs were lost as a result of the fire, and that more than 100 jobs are back online with today’s start. “Building further will take time, and our focus is to do it sustainably so that we grow at a pace that does not put jobs at risk,” Baron told New Jersey Business.

He doesn’t have all the answers yet to how many jobs are actually coming back, but Baron said, “Today, we begin the journey to restart our iconic brand, to win back our customer base and to hire as many talented people as we can support. … Many people assumed the fire would be the end of the Marcal story. That was never our mindset. Our new chapter starts today.

“Marcal Paper is officially back in business,” he told an audience of employees, family members, dignitaries and first responders who were fighting the blaze the evening of January 30, 2019.

“That night, Mother Nature was fighting hard, and I am proud to be part of the team of first responders who went toe to toe with her,” said Michael Foligno, Elmwood Park police chief. “Mother Nature knows who we are because we stood up to her. We didn’t let the fire go beyond the footprint [of the factory].”

Governor Murphy, who recalled touring the Marcal site the day after the blaze, said at today’s event that “Marcal’s story is one of commitment to its employees, the state and this community, which has been the company’s home for more than 80 years.”

He said he was proud of his administration’s assistance to Marcal employees this past year in organizing two jobs fairs with more than 100 participating employers, helping hundreds of Marcal employees file for unemployment assistance, and, with the assistance of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development and other state departments, helping displaced workers secure money for housing, heating and “ensuring that families could put food on their tables.”

The governor added, “We should reflect on the fact that Marcal refers to itself as New Jersey’s one-and-only recycled paper manufacturer. To recycle something means you don’t discard it, but rather give it a second life … how fitting is that today?” he said. “Today, against all odds, manufacturing is back in Elmwood Park, and jobs are coming back to Marcal.”

Peter Marcalus, grandfather of company founder, recalled the night of the fire and listening to the police scanner well into the early morning hours. At first, the scanner was constantly buzzing with reports, but as the night wore on “there were longer pauses. By 4:30 in the morning, there was nothing but an eerie static. Like a hospital monitor attached to a patient, it seemed like the patient was barely alive, or in a deep coma.” When he toured the site he recalled “the acres of charred rubble, twisted steel, burned masonry stacks, and roads covered with ice and black ash … it was a gut-wrenching sight.”

Today, he said, “the rubble had been cleared away. Vital power connections have been made so that machines could produce paper again and product can be sent to customers. We have made a lot of progress, and that progress means there are still jobs here, and Marcal is still a vital part of this community’s fabric.”

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