WOODLAND, Maine — The new owners of Woodland Pulp LLC, formerly Domtar, are investing in new energy efficiencies at their pulp mill using state and federal funds, Gov. John Baldacci said Tuesday.
Baldacci stopped in to visit the mill Tuesday morning, and offered whatever assistance the state could provide to assist the new owners, IGIC of China and Taiwan, to ensure the mill’s security and expand.
The facility’s director, Bert Martin, said the company’s future was finally secured with the change in ownership. “Christmas actually came here on October 1,” he said, referring to the date the mill was sold.
“We now have an owner that wants this mill,” he said. “This lets our people know they will have a job next week, next month and next year. I think the mill today is in a very good position.”
Martin said 300 people now work at the mill and that up to 10 more people will be hired at the start of the new year.
“This mill was in jeopardy of closing,” Baldacci said after a private meeting with company officials. “Domtar had made it very clear the mill was not part of their core mission and had been actively pursuing other investors and new owners.”
Baldacci called the mill “the lifeblood of Washington County” and said that each mill job represents another three or four jobs in the region, such as clerks, waiters and bank employees. “The ripple effect is huge,” he said, noting the mill has an annual payroll of $20 million to $25 million.
Martin said that the mill is using 1.5 million tons of fiber annually, pulled from every region of Maine and New Brunswick. “We generate jobs all over the state,” he said.
Martin said the mill is operating below capacity and that the 2011 goal is to stabilize the facility. Now, he said, the mill is producing 1,200 metric tons of pulp a day but he would like to see that increased to 1,400 tons. “We are also looking at alternative products that could increase our efficiency and productivity,” he said.
Baldacci said the mill is “the largest employer north of Bangor. Without this economic engine, Washington County would be a very different place this winter.”
He praised the mill’s work force. “They are tremendous. This is one of the most efficient mills in Maine’s family of mills.” Baldacci said the state would continue to work with WPLLC on energy efficiency and expansion.
“Washington County is a great place of opportunity,” he added.