RUMFORD — It was business as usual for NewPage Corp. and town officials in the wake of the paper company's announcement Wednesday that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
"I think when you hear 'bankruptcy' it has a negative connotation," Town Manager Carlo Puiia said. "I believe it's to the company's advantage to restructure and come back as a stronger paper mill that can create jobs."
"I firmly believe we are on the right path to enhance our standing as the leading producer of printing and specialty papers in North America and position us to compete and succeed in a dynamic industry environment," Martin said.
Chapter 11 allows a business to continue operating as usual while working with creditors to develop a plan that explains how they will satisfy their obligations and restructure their debt.
Some of that debt is based in the town of Rumford. NewPage owes $2.7 million to Rumford Falls Hydro LLC, owned by Massachusetts-based Brookfield Renewable Power Inc.
Julie Smith-Galvin, director of communications and stakeholder relations for Brookfield Renewable Power, said the company did not have any comment on the filing by NewPage.
Hartt Transportation of Bangor has been hauling goods for the Rumford mill for years and is listed in court paperwork as one of the top 30 unsecured creditors.
Hartt Chief Financial Officer Joanna Bradeen said, "News like this can be disconcerting, but I think we have all known it was coming. To continue, NewPage needs to deliver their product to market to survive, and I think this is their only way to guarantee they can do that."
Bradeen was confident of the mill's future because J.P. Morgan has committed to secure $600 million in debtor-in-possession financing to help the company continue to operate and compete in today's market. Debtor-in-possession financing will give J.P. Morgan rights similar to those of a trustee of the company.
"For the most part, it's business as usual," Bradeen said.
Janet Hall, director of Human Resources and Mill Communications for the NewPage mill in Rumford, said the mill, which has about 900 employees, is focusing on meeting the demands of its customers and supplying quality products. She said there had been no mention of shutdowns or rolling downtimes for the mill. Such downtimes occurred in 2009.
"The economy was not good in 2009 and we easily matched our customers' demands, which required us to stop production for short periods of time," Hall said. "That isn't the case now and we are even bringing in new hourly employees this week."
State Rep. Matt Peterson, D-Rumford, said he was concerned about keeping jobs at the mill.
"We still need to concentrate on what we can do to keep the facility in Rumford operating and strong," Peterson said. "We don't want to lose these jobs because someone on Wall Street at an equity capital firm made a series of bad decisions."
U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe and Rep. Mike Michaud released statements saying they were ready to assist the mill in Rumford in any way they could.
"It is critical we do whatever it takes at the federal level to foster an environment of economic certainty that reinvigorates our mills and ensures their lasting competitiveness both domestically and around the globe," Snowe said.
Ron Hemingway, recording secretary for the United Paperworkers Union Local 900, said as long as the overall plan filed in court Wednesday is approved, mill employees will be protected.
"The company is trying to honor the benefits and wages of the employees," Hemingway said. "This could be a lot worse, like the East Millinocket mill closure where everyone was laid off. This is the best type of plan we could have expected."