The news that the Crown van Gelder paper mill in Velsen-Noord had filed for bankruptcy hit the region like a bomb. The company has been around for 126 years and has grown to be an icon in IJmond. For generations, the factory has provided employment, until now. Yesterday it was announced that the factory would be closed.
The first roll of paper came off the machine in 1896. The mill was owned by Peter Smidt and began producing newsprint. The first roll of the Amsterdam newspaper “De Echo” was used. After a few years it became completely self-sufficient because Van Gelder had a separate factory built for cellulose, a raw material for paper. Business went well, for in 1931 more than 1,200 people worked in or around the paper mill.
Then comes a setback. The factory was damaged during World War II and looted. It will take some time before production starts again. In 1961 Van Gelder began working with the American company Crown Zellerbach. This also leads to the eye-catching name: Crown van Gelder.
Until the 1980s, the paper mill was doing well. A new paper machine was built and inaugurated by Prince Bernard in 1964. This machine did its job so well that a second machine could be started eight years later.
The first bankruptcy
This is not the first time that a paper mill has gone bankrupt. In 1981, 540 people lost their jobs after the collapse of the parent company after numerous reorganizations. After 2 years, we have successfully restarted with 260 employees.
Cor de Groot (60) from Warmenhuizen witnessed the company’s resurrection up close. He worked in the factory from 1985 to the summer of 2019. In the period when he started there, unemployment in the Netherlands was high. Core did not have a job himself. “My brother actually worked for Van Gelder and said, ‘Why don’t you come with me?'” De Groot did all sorts of things inside the factory. He worked in the warehouse, tested paper, did first aid and was even a member of the Labor Council.
In fact, almost all of the staff came from North Holland, he says. “Most of them lived in IJmuiden or Velsen. But they also came from Den Helder, Alkmaar and several Heerhugowaard. In my early days there was a really big employer. You can choose: either to the blast furnaces or to the paper mill.”
In addition to the fact that the employees come from the province, the factory also contributes socially. For example, several local institutions are sponsored, it seems Sustainability figures for 2020. Think Friends of the Velsen-Noord Foundation, Zaanstreek Paper History Foundation, and Kennemerland Animal Ambulance Foundation.
“It felt like a kind of family. Everything was possible and everything was allowed.”
Cor was turned down in 2019. He still thinks fondly of his time at “Van Gelder,” as the factory calls him. “I enjoyed working there all those years. Especially in the beginning it felt like a kind of family. Everything was possible and everything was allowed. It was very social.” So the news shocked de Groot. “A lot of people my age are still working, they’re in bad shape now. It affected me.”
Bankruptcy is bad news for just over two hundred employees. They hope to be the company Can restart.
Crown van Gelder director Miklas Dronkers responded to NH News Tuesday morning about his company’s bankruptcy. “I find the staff situation very troublesome. We have proven too weak to handle this market situation as an independent company. We obviously ran into liquidity problems due to the rapid market crash.”
“Now we are trying to do everything possible so that the employees have a good future: at Crown Van Gelder or somewhere else. Is it possible to restart? Yes, but we have to hurry.”
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