The papermaking industry is thriving in the U.S. and many states have strong ties to the industry, but it’s hard to find a place that isn’t struggling with high unemployment rates.
A papermaking residence in California has a median income of $56,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But that’s only a fraction of the $100,000 median household income in Florida, according the Center for American Progress.
The papermakers also work in jobs that are more precarious than what they had in their past, like the factory and food service jobs.
It’s not a place where people get to move on to a new career or make more money.
“In the papermaking community, it’s a great job,” said Mary Ann DeBoe, a member of the papermaker residency program at The Colony Papermakers in Houston.
“But we have to realize, that’s not the case for everybody.”
While papermakers earn the highest median income in the country, they’re struggling to find jobs in their field.
“They’re struggling because they’re competing for a job, so it’s really hard to get a good paying job,” DeBue said.
The Colony papermakers, for example, don’t have a skilled owner to hire from out of state.
They need to hire a local papermaker.
DeBues papermaker said she is working with the state of Texas to hire another local paper maker.
“We have a really hard time finding that person in Texas because there are a lot of barriers,” DeBeus said.
“It’s a huge challenge for us because there is not enough papermakers in Texas.”
DeBoes papermaker works for a local company called The Colony, which was founded in 1991 by a former papermaker, and is one of the few papermaking businesses that offers a job for papermakers.
The company employs around 50 people in Houston and employs more than 100 people nationwide.
The group’s CEO, Michelle DeBouz, said the company hires papermakers from the paper manufacturing community, which has a growing population of papermakers working in manufacturing, including papermakers for apparel, food, home goods, and even in some small industries like restaurants.
But for a papermaker who works in a factory, the pay can be hard to come by.
“You have to make the most out of the work you get.
You have to work really hard and you have to get it right, and you can’t just get away from your job and go to a restaurant and be happy and get some food,” DeBey said.
DeBey added that some papermakers have jobs that can pay more than the median household wage.
The Colonies papermaker program is one example.
“Our program has a very low median wage for papermaking,” Debeus said, “but we have a lot more papermakers than that who have jobs.”
DeBey also said the papermakers are often not able to afford the higher wages in the paper industry.
“When you have a job that’s more than a job,” she said, “…it’s not as hard to pay as you would think.”
DeBeuses papermaker is one woman who is trying to find work.
She has a two-year-old son, and said that she works as a housekeeper at a hospital.
She said she’s trying to save up enough money to help her son and daughter, who live in other states.
“My son is going to college and my daughter is working on her PhD,” DeBerry said.
In the past, DeBerry has struggled to find affordable childcare and a place to live.
She recently enrolled in the Colony papermaking program.
“I feel like this is the only way for me to have the opportunity to go out and earn money to support my son,” Deberry said.
But she also said she still has many questions about papermaking.
She’s worried about the jobs available to papermakers who are currently employed in other industries.
“Do they have enough education, do they have the skills to be in a papermaking job, and do they want to come back to papermaking?”
“What do I need to learn to get that papermaking career back?”
DeBoudas papermaker also works for the Colony, and has a hard time deciding which state or city to live in.
“As long as I live in Houston, I’m going to stay here,” De Boudas said.
She is hoping to find something that will help her in her career.
“Maybe it’s going to be a paper making business,” De Berry said.