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Paper Chase: QE2 Is Great Business for This Guy

Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper
Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper

It’s the paper chase, baby. And Fortress Paper CEO Chad Wasilenkoff is making bank.

“With the quantitative easing that’s going on right now, it’s very very busy these days,” he told me on CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange.”

Fortress is the sole maker of the Swiss Franc, and makes the Euro for 10 countries, along with producing currencies for another dozen countries around the world as well.

Global banknote paper production is a huge industry—to the tune of about $2.25 billion in 2009. With more money being printed globally than ever before (that means you, Bernanke), the demand shows no sign of slowing.

Fortress expects to more than quadruple their banknote/security business in the next 18 to 24 months. Even better news? They’re hiring.

“We're seeing a decline in the forestry sector in general. They're focused more on cost cutting initiatives, so we're one of the few within that sector expanding, putting back people to work,” Wasilenkoff said.

The company created 320 jobs when it opened its mill in Quebec last year, and created another 3,500 indirect jobs in the area.

While reserves in the U.S. and Europe are printing away, the big money (literally) is in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China make up almost 50 percent of total annual demand for banknote paper.

In response to whether he’s seen demand for banknotes in China decrease due to policy tightening, Wasilenkoff said, “We've seen no evidence of that,” and added that they’ve actually partnered with the Chinese government to expand their research and development department.

Fortress has made a name for itself by focusing on specialty products that offer higher margins and have greater barriers to entry. Thieves beware: from its mills in Switzerland, Germany and Canada, Fortress is at the forefront of integrating technological features into banknote paper to deter thieves — including security thread, holographic stripe, even special paper that can be printed with transparent windows.

According to officials, the U.S. Secret Service seized a total of $104 million in counterfeit bills in the U.S. and overseas from circulation in 2009 alone.

Due in large part to the recession and unprecedented levels of debt, the production of counterfeit currency is at a global high.

And, we obviously have a lot more of it these days.

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