Once again, the Old Town pulp mill is up and running.

Many of you probably remember five years ago, after a period of inactivity, when the mill was reopened by Expera, all of its workers were brought back, and things seemed to be on the right track. But it wasn’t a year later that Expera shut the mill down, which is how it stayed until now.

Last year, we were all excited to learn that the mill was purchased by ND Paper, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd. ND moved quickly, investing $46 million into the mill, including $12 million in state tax credits, and bringing in a crew of workers to overhaul and update the property.

More good news came when ND announced that they were hiring 130 workers, most of them former employees of the Expera mill, out of a pool of almost 1,000 applicants, to operate the plant once it was up and running. That’s 130 highly skilled workers putting their talents to work in competitive positions, putting food on their tables, saving for their retirement and enjoying the high quality of life that comes with a good-paying, steady job.

In addition to the onsite jobs, the reopening of the mill is expected to bring an additional 600 or so related jobs to the area, many of them truckers and loggers who will supply the mill with the wood needed to produce pulp.

Last week, I had the honor of attending the mill’s reopening ceremony, along with the rehired workers and a few local leaders. Despite the fact that it felt like we had been here before, the mood was optimistic. After all, it wasn’t long ago that many of us felt like the mill would never reopen and we’d never be here again.

And there is reason to be optimistic.

The new mill owners have taken serious steps to overhaul the business model to fit in with today’s pulp market. The newly reopened mill will produce softwood pulp and share some overhead with the Rumford mill, which ND also owns. The mill’s output is anticipated to increase as well, from 150,000 metric tons of pulp up to 270,000 metric tons.

When the mill shut down before, one of the biggest issues hampering the mill was competition with Chinese and Malaysian producers. The new owners see the Chinese market as an opportunity. Chinese paper producers need pulp, and Old Town is well-situated to produce the pulp they need.

Of course, we should be cautious in our optimism. Anything can happen, and we’ve certainly seen this go poorly before. You should all know that I will do my part in Augusta to make sure that the mill stays open, and importantly, those who work in it have what they need to thrive. But there is reason to be hopeful, and that is something to celebrate.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d like to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: