BANGOR (AP) – The northern Maine industrial giant that operated for more than a century as Great Northern Paper will be given a new name.

The Canadian company poised to finalize its $103 million purchase of the bankrupt mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket also plans to trim the 1,116-member work force to a total of 500 to 550.

The two mills will be operated as one complex and the infrastructure that once supported 17 paper machines will be reconfigured to support just three machines.

The East Millinocket mill, with two paper machines and about 375 employees, is expected to start up by mid-May. But it could be another year or more before the Millinocket mill, with about 175 workers, is back on line.

The plans were unveiled by top officials of Toronto-based Brascan Corp., which is buying Great Northern, and Stamford, Conn.-based Nexfor Fraser Papers Inc., the company that will operate and sell Great Northern’s products.

Nexfor Fraser is a subsidiary of Nexfor Inc., itself a unit of Brascan. Officials say Great Northern’s new name will likely be linked to Fraser, a recognized brand in the industry.

Brascan plans to invest about $100 million in the two mills to position them to run through the worst of economic times. “We are committed to making the facility a successful business,” said Richard Legault, Brascan vice president. “It is like starting a brand-new business. People have to buy into what we want to do with that business including the employees, the communities and everybody who has been a stakeholder through this very difficult process of bankruptcy.”

Bert Martin, president of Nexfor Fraser, said the philosophies that drive its business include good returns for shareholders, superior quality and service for customers and a safe work environment and competitive pay and benefits for employees.

Rich Chapel, the company’s director of communications, said the directory papers produced at East Millinocket and the glossy supercalendered papers produced in Millinocket are a good fit for Nexfor Fraser, providing it with additional clout in world markets.

Brascan has a target date of April 21 to complete the Great Northern purchase, but can obtain a seven-day extension if needed, Legault said. “The faster we do this, the quicker everybody goes back to work,” he said.

Legault and Martin estimate the East Millinocket paper mill will start up three to four weeks after the sale is complete, with the bulk of returning employees called back the first day.

Martin and Legault said the Millinocket mill will start up in about a year, or after the company invests about $60 million for the construction of a new plant which uses chemicals and steam to break down wood fiber used to make paper.

Legault said that while the East Millinocket mill is very competitive, the sister mill in Millinocket poses a challenge because its pulping facilities are not cost-effective.

Legault said the company would not start the Millinocket mill up in the current economic environment because it would lose money. He said it makes no sense to operate one mill at a profit and the other at a loss.

AP-ES-04-10-03 1100EDT

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