EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Less than a year after its revival, the Great Northern Paper Co. plans to get a second paper machine up and running in East Millinocket, creating an additional 37 jobs, according to the company’s president and CEO.
When the mill reopened its doors in October 2011, 215 employees were put back to work. Since then, GNP has hired an additional 20 workers, and will nearly match that increase in coming weeks.
“The goal is for us to go into production no later than the first week of September,” Richard Cyr, GNP’s president and CEO, said Thursday afternoon. He said the company was already in the process of advertising the openings to people in the area who have experience in the pulp and paper industry.
On Thursday, five former mill employees passed physicals and will be back to work on Monday, Cyr said. GNP’s human resources department has called another five former employees to gauge their interest in returning to work.
Among the positions available are eight salaried management-level posts, four jobs in the wood room, four in the grinding room, three in the warehouse, six maintenance jobs and 12 positions to staff the papermaking machine.
“As of today, there have been very few applications for a machinist position we advertised over the weekend,” Cyr said.
All of the jobs will be based in GNP’s East Millinocket mill, where the company plans to restart paper machine No. 5 to complement the production of the No. 6 machine.
When the mill resumed operations last fall, machine No. 5 produced paper, but operations soon shifted to No. 6 because it allowed the mill to increase production, and machine No. 5 was shut down, according to Cyr.
By the last week of August or first week of September, machine No. 5 will be rolling out paper again, adding between 12,000 and 14,000 tons in 2012 to the 150,000 tons produced by machine No. 6, Cyr said.
In 2013, Cyr said he hopes machine No. 5 will produce 50,000 tons per year.
Machines Nos. 5 and 6 are the last two remaining at the East Millinocket mill.
The mill is doing well after launching a “very extensive sales and marketing campaign,” Cyr said, adding that GNP has 35- to 40-day backlog of orders and the mill is sold out through the end of the year.
The company makes products ranging from newsprint and telephone directory paper to stock for books such as the popular novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Sales are up and the guys are producing good paper, and it’s being noticed,” Cyr said.
Growth won’t be limited to the mill, according to a spokesman for GNP’s parent company, Cate Street Capital.
“The more paper we produce and the more people we hire in the mill, the more guys get employed outside the mill,” Scott Tranchemontagne said Thursday.
Tranchemontagne said the increased paper production will lead to a heightened demand for wood that will be harvested by Maine loggers.
More jobs are on the horizon in the Millinocket area for 2013, with Cate Street’s Thermogen Industries LLC subsidiary eyeing the former Millinocket mill, which shut its doors in 2008, as the future home of a torrefied wood production facility.
The plant would hire 25 full-time workers and begin producing, from about 240,000-250,000 tons of wood wastes, about 110,000 tons of torrefied wood pellets annually for European sale in the summer of 2013, company representatives have said.