JAY — Verso Corp. announced new investments in specialty paper at its Androscoggin Mill on Wednesday, at the same time saying the company is aiming to re-position the mill to focus only on specialty paper.
The mill currently produces a mix of coated paper, often used in marketing and catalogs; uncoated paper, often used for reading or writing materials; and specialty paper, often used for labels and packaging.
The investments announced Wednesday will include upgrades to the mill’s No. 4 paper machine, which produces release liner paper, a specialty paper that includes a release agent on one side, such as stickers or adhesive bandages.
“The Androscoggin Mill and its No. 4 paper machine have a rich history of manufacturing specialty products,” Verso’s president of graphic papers Mike Weinhold said in a news release.
“When enhanced with these technology upgrades, the No. 4 paper machine’s 6-meter-width, technical capabilities and fully integrated pulp platform will be particularly well-suited to support the growing release liner market. Additionally, these investments advance Verso’s strategy to re-position 100 percent of the Androscoggin Mill’s production to serve specialty paper and packaging markets.”
Verso representatives did not respond to phone calls or emails for comment Wednesday. The release did not say how much the new investments will cost or whether jobs will be added. The mill employs about 400 people.
The first phase of the No. 4 paper machine project is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2018, with completion of the second phase expected in 2019.
The release said the upgrade will allow the mill to increase capacity of release liner paper and to tap into a growing market.
In a separate release, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, praised the upgrades, saying, “Maine has seen renewed investment in our wood products industry in just the past year alone, and I am thrilled today’s announcement at the Jay mill will continue moving our state jobs and economic growth in the right direction.”
In February, the mill announced a $17 million project — upgrading its idled No. 3 paper machine and reinstating 120 jobs lost during layoffs in January 2017.
The No. 3 machine had been making graphic paper for magazines and catalogs, but officials said at the time that it would shift to packaging paper.
In recent months, the company has signaled it also might be moving away from supercalendered paper, a type of glossy coated paper often used in magazines.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce decided at the request of Verso to revoke a tax on supercalendered paper being imported into the U.S. from Canada.
As of last spring, Verso was the only remaining producer of supercalendered paper in the U.S., but the company told the department in March it had “no interest” when it comes to the glossy paper.
The commerce department’s decision was part of a deal Verso struck with two Canadian producers to receive up to $42 million in exchange for removal of the import tax.
A truck delivers logs in August 2015 to the Verso Corp. paper mill in Jay. (Sun Journal file photo)
Workers’ cars line the parking lot of the Androscoggin Mill in Jay in August 2015. Verso Corp., the company that owns the mill, announced Wednesday that it is making new investments in producing specialty paper at the mill. (Morning Sentinel file photo)