Officials of the Catalyst Mill in Rumford announced Tuesday they restarted the No. 12 paper machine at noon Tuesday and would bring back 51 workers who lost their jobs last year, with the option of bringing back more depending on order volume.

RUMFORD — Shut down since May 2015, Catalyst Paper Co.’s No. 12 paper machine was restarted Tuesday, allowing 51 employees who were laid off in May 2015 to return to their jobs.

Tony Lyons, spokesman for the mill, said the machine resumed production at a reduced schedule, and all 51 workers who were laid off have been asked if they wish to return to their prior position.

“Right now, we have 32 people working on the No. 12 paper machine,” Lyons said, adding that the mill is hiring new workers to fill more positions.

The machine, which previously manufactured coated paper used in catalogs and magazines, was temporarily silenced in May 2015 and shut down permanently after mill owners re-evaluated the financial situation in September 2015.

The paper that will be produced by the No. 12 paper machine is “a unique grade to Rumford, called Rumford Offset grade,” Lyons said. “It’s a one-side-coated sheet, and its end-use applications range from marketing materials, forms, fliers and higher-end newsletters and brochures.”

Restarting the No. 12 paper machine is “an indication that we’ve been successful in our new product development,” Lyons said.

“Since we became Catalyst, we spent a lot of time and energy on new product development,” he said. “It was part of the revitalization effort that Catalyst has been supporting and desiring from us. Part of that revitalization effort is moving to new products, and moving away from the commodity-grade products we made traditionally.”

Ron Hemingway, president of the United Steelworkers Union Local 900, said the mill has called everyone who was laid off in 2015 to see if they wanted their position back, and hired six new employees last week.

“All of this has had a really positive effect,” he said. “For a while, that area of the mill was like a ghost alley: quiet, and not running. The mood it put everybody in was that this facility is doomed. With the No. 12 machine up and running again, people are lively again. Paper is all over the place, and it gives the mill and the community hope that we’ll be here to stay.”

Hemingway said the mill is hoping to make new and higher-value products on the machine, with hopes of keeping the mill profitable.

“The more we can develop, the better it is for the mill,” he said. “We all need the mill to be profitable.”

The Maine Pulp and Paper Association said in a news release that the “restart of Catalyst Rumford’s No. 12 machine reinvigorates our stance that pulp and papermaking in Maine is alive and well, and offers a great example of how paper mills are able to respond to shifting market conditions to invigorate their product mix, manufacturing process and infrastructure for the betterment of their operations, workers and Maine’s economy.”

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