An Outagamie County judge has approved the sale of a Fox Valley paper mill that employed hundreds of people to a liquidation company.
Judge Gregory Gill approved Industrial Assets' $21.5 million purchase of Appleton Coated on Thursday.
The deal requires California-based Industrial Assets to market the plant for 90 days. If a buyer isn't found, the liquidation company plans to sell the equipment and machinery.
Some hope that a buyer will be found to continue operations at the Combined Locks plant.
"The good news is that we have an opportunity to find someone to operate the plant," said Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson. "It's not going to be easy, but we still have a second chance."
The paper mill has 620 employees. About 100 workers will continue to work in the building for a few weeks to keep it functional. That number will later be reduced to 30 employees. The rest of the workers will be laid off.
"There are people who are heartbroken. For some, this is the only company they've ever worked for," said employee Tim Somers. "I want to go back. It's something I know and am good at. But I don't think I'll be recalled. I think the end is here."
Carrie Thomas is an employee who was laid off.
"I know a lot of us have been looking for new jobs, some of us have been starting to think about schooling, not putting all our hopes on this," Thomas said.
Employees will continue to receive health insurance through October.
Appleton Coated made commercial printing paper for magazines and text books. The company decided to sell the plant as demand for its products declined and the company began losing money.