Sappi to invest $2.5 million in Westbrook paper mill

Posted Jan. 10, 2013, at 1:04 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 10, 2013, at 4:09 p.m.

WESTBROOK, Maine — Sappi Fine Paper said Wednesday that it is spending $2.5 million to rebuild one of its specialty paper coating machines at its Westbrook paper mill.

The capital investment will upgrade the coating and drying capabilities of the mill’s No. 20 coater, according to a media release from the company. The rebuild will expand the mill’s manufacturing capacity, improve its energy efficiency and allow for a wider range of raw materials to be used, the company said.

The No. 20 coater is one of six coating machines at the Westbrook mill. It was built in 1962 and was at the company’s paper mill in Muskegon, Mich., before being moved to the Westbrook mill in 1976, according to Joanna Rieke, a Sappi spokeswoman.

The investment is designed, according to the release, to help Sappi remain a market leader in the production of specialized release papers, which are used to provide textures and patterns for synthetic fabrics used in automobiles, footwear and apparel, as well as decorative laminate surfaces found in flooring, kitchens and bathrooms. Sappi refers to its specialized release papers as its Classics line.

“This is tremendous news for the Westbrook mill,” Donna Cassese, the Westbrook mill’s manager, said in a statement. “Over the past few years, we have made significant gains in safety, yield, equipment reliability and productivity; all of which have strengthened our market position globally. These accomplishments helped set the stage for the decision to invest in our Classics line.”

When reached by phone Thursday morning for more information, Cassese referred calls to Sappi’s corporate office.

“All I can say is we’re very excited about it,” she told the Bangor Daily News.

Rieke, at the corporate office, said this was the first major investment in the mill’s infrastructure since 2001 when, to add production capacity, the company built the No. 4 Ultracast coater.

The current project to rebuild the No. 20 machine will not have a direct impact on jobs at the Westbrook mill, she said.

“The plan is to grow market share with increased efficiencies and quality improvements,” Rieke said.

The mill’s coating machine is expected to be rebuilt by May.

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