EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage will visit the new Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill at noon Monday as part of a brief ceremony celebrating the revitalization of the paper industry in the Katahdin region, officials said Friday.
A tentative agenda of the scheduled 30-minute visit supplied by town officials has company President Peter Hansen greeting LePage with introductory remarks before the governor speaks. Remarks from local officials, including Mark Scally, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue will follow.
LePage will then greet workers before departing at 12:30 p.m.
LePage announced what could be the largest economic success of his young administration when he announced on Sept. 16 that Cate Street Capital of Portsmouth, N.H., had signed a deal to purchase in escrow the East Millinocket and Millinocket paper mills for undisclosed terms with then-mill parent company Brookfield Asset Management. The sale was finalized later that month.
Cate Street made the news most recently when it was announced that an aircraft manufacturer slated to open a plant in Brunswick might move some of the 600 jobs to be located there to Berlin, N.H., to take advantage of the less expensive energy to be produced by a biomass boiler Cate Street is building.
The mill employs 215 workers and began producing paper on Oct. 17 to fill its first order by early November. It employed 415 when Brookfield closed it in April, citing years of unprofitability. The closure ended more than a century of region papermaking, with the Millinocket mill having closed in September 2008 due to its use of oil to fire burners critical to the manufacture of uncoated supercalendared paper.
To make the restart possible, LePage twice got extensions on the mills’ decommissioning deadlines from Brookfield, the state Legislature agreed to assume ownership of the mills’ landfill in the Dolby section of town, union workers accepted contracts that made them the state’s lowest-paid papermakers and the host towns made property tax deals that drew to them less revenue from the mills than ever before.
In helping restart the mill, which makes newsprint and telephone directory paper, LePage’s administration was finishing work begun by his predecessor, Gov. John Baldacci. LePage retained Baldacci’s senior forest products adviser, Rosaire Pelletier, to help find new owners and attend to the myriad details associated with such complex transactions.
Cate Street officials have said they plan to restart the Millinocket paper mill when market conditions permit, which they expected would not occur for several months.