Businessman meets with state on Katahdin mills plan

Posted July 17, 2011, at 5:17 p.m.
Galen Hale
Photo courtesy of Galen Hale
Galen Hale

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — A local businessman and former Katahdin region paper mill worker said he has pitched his plan for buying the region’s two paper mills to one of Gov. Paul LePage’s top economic advisers.

Galen Hale, owner of a Medway retail stove store and an East Millinocket scrap metal salvage operation, met Wednesday with Senior Economic Adviser John Butera at the State House, he said.

“The meeting went very well,” Hale said in a statement released Friday. “We had a good discussion on the needs of the communities and how the Hale Family Business plan for the mills would address those needs.

“We had the opportunity to go through the plan in detail and also discussed financing. I think that the Hale Family Business plan is more realistic than [those of] some of the bigger companies. We will now wait to hear back from Governor LePage and John Butera,” Hale said.

Hale, a Millinocket resident and Medway native, has acknowledged that he doesn’t much resemble the multinational corporations that have so far been courted by the Baldacci and LePage administrations as potential mill owners.

But Hale has 31 years of experience working at the Main Street and Millinocket paper mills and said he has received tentative approvals from financial institutions that would back his plan, if the mills pass a due diligence review that the financiers would help complete, he has said.

Mark Scally, chairman of the East Millinocket Board of Selectmen, said that state officials have told him that their efforts to sell the mills to other, larger investors are progressing well.

The Main Street paper mill in East Millinocket closed on April 1, idling as many as 450 workers. Its Millinocket sister mill closed in September 2008, laying off about 150 workers. State Department of Economic and Community Development officials have been working to find another owner to run the two paper mills since Meriturn Partners, a San Francisco investor, dropped its attempt to buy both for $1 in April.

Disassembly of the two mills is due to start on or sometime after July 31. LePage announced the decommissioning date in late April, saying that Brookfield Asset Management had granted the state a final extension of its original decommissioning deadline to allow officials more time to find a buyer.

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