Timeline: History of the Old Town Mill

Posted Aug. 14, 2014, at 1 p.m.

1860: Production on mill site begins with sawmill.

1882: Penobscot Chemical Fiber Co. established.

1967: Merger with Diamond International Corp.

1983: Facility purchased by James River Corp.

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1997: James River merges with Fort Howard, creating Fort James Corp.

2000: Georgia-Pacific Corp. purchases Fort James, including Old Town mill.

February 2003: G-P announces shutdown of a tissue machine for two weeks in March because of sluggish economy. In addition, Old Town mill’s tissue converting department closes for one day a week for seven weeks. Sixty of mill’s 600 employees asked to take vacation or unpaid leave during shutdowns.

March 2003: G-P announces the two tissue paper machines have been shut down indefinitely. Also, limited production shutdowns occur in tissue converting department.

April 2003: G-P permanently stops producing tissue at plant, shuts down 13 converting lines. About 300 employees expected to be affected by closure.

May 2003: Mill escapes closure when state purchases G-P landfill, selects Casella Waste Systems Inc. to operate facility. Casella gives state $26 million to purchase landfill from G-P, which uses the money and additional funding to build biomass plant to cut energy costs, allowing mill to be more competitive and remain open while addressing state’s solid waste dilemma.

June 2003: Despite concerns over potential liabilities, health hazards, Natural Resources Committee signs off on resolve authorizing state to buy 64-acre landfill in Old Town from G-P. LD 1626 later passed by full Legislature. Seven salaried employees at mill lose jobs.

April 2004: More than 100 people at informational meeting at G-P training center learn that biomass boiler G-P proposes to install at mill will burn more efficiently, improve company’s ability to succeed in paper market. Purchase of boiler to be funded by sale of G-P’s West Old Town Landfill to state. Company plans to recycle biomass boiler built in 1986, previously used at wood-fired power plant in Athens. Maine Department of Environmental Protection approves landfill project. Numerous attempts to appeal decision are unsuccessful.

July 2004: G-P to reduce tissue production temporarily at Old Town mill because of nationwide decline in retail sales.

February 2005: Mill successfully fires up $27.2 million biomass boiler for first time, uses natural gas for test while awaiting permission to burn waste wood chips.

September 2005: G-P says about 15 employees expected to be laid off in October when two tissue converting lines temporarily shut down.

October 2005: About 50 G-P workers expected to lose jobs by end of year after G-P announces all converting lines at Old Town paper mill to be shut down.

November 2005: Koch Industries Inc., nation’s second-biggest private company, announces plans to buy G-P for more than $13 billion. G-P officials in Old Town say it’s “business as usual” until they’re told otherwise.

March 16, 2006: G-P announces it’s closing the Old Town mill and associated chip mills in Milo, Costigan, Portage and Houlton. The closure put 459 people out of work.

May 2006: G-P fails to find a buyer as 60-day deadline with state passes.

September 2006: Four firms are announced as partners, buyers for G-P site in Old Town. The sale price was $1.

June 2008: Red Shield files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, idling the mill and laying off 160 workers

October 2008: A New York investment firm, Patriarch Partners, purchases the mill out of bankruptcy for $19 million, creating Old Town Fuel & Fiber.

October 2013: Old Town Fuel & Fiber is touted as a leader in the creation of cellulosic sugars, a extracted from wood, for use in bio-fuels, plastics, etc.

February 2014: Demonstration projects by Old Town Fuel & Fiber for cellulosic sugar uses are discussed for later this year, which would spur the creation of 20-30 jobs.

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