JAY — Curtis Brooks, who has lost his job twice at Maine paper mills that closed or downsized, has some advice for those facing layoffs when the Androscoggin Mill is scheduled to shut down next year.

Curtis Brooks of Jay lost two previous jobs at papers mills in Jay and encourages those facing layoffs at the Androscoggin Mill not to be discouraged. Courtesy photo

The 41-year-old from Jay lost his job when the Wausau Paper Otis Mill on the Jay/Livermore Falls line downsized in December 2008 and closed in 2009. He went to work at Verso Corp., the former owner of the Androscoggin Mill, and when it downsized in 2016, he was unemployed again.

He did a stint as a corrections officer at a prison before being hired by Nine Dragons Paper Holdings’ mill in Rumford in 2017.

“I kind of cut my teeth on pulp and paper at the Otis Mill,” Brooks said. “Coming from the town of Jay, you are kind of born into it.”

He said he thinks everyone who watched the other mills closing in Lincoln, Bucksport and Millinockett thought maybe with fewer mills they would have a better chance of survival.

“When it happens to you, you’re almost in a state of shock,” he said. “It stuns everybody in a way. They make these announcements, and you still have to go to work. It hurts. You almost feel helpless.”


After the shock, workers go to meetings, where they are told about severance packages and learn the order in which machinery will be shut down and departments will go out.

“You hope your department will go out last, because you would still draw a paycheck before you have to start your life again,” he said. “Once the shock kind of wears off, you kind of look at the options available.”

This is the situation about 230 employees are facing as Pixelle Specialty Solutions of Pennsylvania prepares to close the Androscoggin Mill in the first quarter of 2023. The displaced workers will receive severance packages, mill spokesman Alan Ulman wrote in an email Wednesday.

It is the first mill Pixelle has closed, he said.

Brooks said he believes that when the Jay mill downsized in past years, some employees thought, “Is this the beginning of the end?” and “It was almost inevitable that this mill was going to close.”

Over the coming months, the Maine Department of Labor is set to work closely with mill leadership to ensure every employee has access to unemployment insurance and health insurance, receives job training and job search assistance through Maine’s CareerCenter and JobLink and has access to other critical services, spokesman Dillon Murray wrote in an email Wednesday.


When Brooks was laid off from Verso, the Sappi Mill in Skowhegan and the Rumford mill opened their doors to try and help those from Verso, he said.

“You start to build seniority, you make friends,” Brooks said. “You spend 12 hours at home and 12 hours at work.

“It is hard when you have to go somewhere new. It is hard when you have seniority and you have to start over. You have no vacation time and you have to kind of figure out where you rank. It is tough. A sense of belonging is lost.”

He worked in the wood room at Verso, which was a physical job, and is in the pulp mill at Nine Dragons in Rumford, where everything is computer-oriented.

“You are running things from screens, though there is a physical side as well,” Brooks said.

When he lost his job for the second time, he wondered if he should put his time in at another mill.


“My wife (Michelle) kind of convinced me to interview at ND,” he said. “I got a job.”

He was surprised during one layoff that 150 employees had a combined 2,000 years of papermaking experience that went out the door.

“Don’t get discouraged,” he advised those on the brink of losing their jobs. “There are a lot of great, good-paying jobs out there. Don’t be afraid to try something outside of the box, outside your comfort zone. It is never too late to try something different. You have to go out and go after work.”

Brooks, a firefighter with the Jay Fire Rescue Department for 20 years, said he and Fire Rescue Chief Mike Booker talked for a few minutes Tuesday after the announcement.

“I think the big question is what’s going to happen to property taxes, property valuations and municipal budgets,” Brooks said.

When he punched in at the Rumford mill on Wednesday morning, Brooks told himself, “I am pretty damn lucky.”

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