PORTLAND, Maine — Catalyst Paper has restarted its No. 12 paper machine, bringing back the 51 employees furloughed last fall and supporting plans to hire more depending on order volume.
Tony Lyons, a spokesman for Catalyst at the Rumford Mill, said the company restarted its No. 12 machine in March for a limited run of its Rumford Offset grade.
“[No. 12] will still have somewhat of a reduced schedule, depending on the orders that come in on it,” Lyons said.
The uncoated freesheet paper is intended for use in marketing materials, business documents, newsletters and brochures. That grade of paper is new to the Rumford mill and to Catalyst, which Lyons said came from a yearlong product development effort at Catalyst to hone its offerings.
“We have put a lot of effort and resources to migrating our grade mix to a more profitable mix of products,” Lyons said.
The No. 12 had the ability to produce that grade and got called back online for the work. The mill employs about 640 people with the restart.
The No. 12 machine previously made coated paper used in magazines, catalogs and commercial printing. The company said its decision to idle the machine in September was tied entirely to declining market demand.
Lyons said additional hiring for the machine depends on the strength of order volume in the coming weeks and that the company wants to remain flexible as it shifts its product mix, in order to match demand.
The Maine Pulp and Paper Association said the restart “offers a great example of how paper mills are able to respond to shifting market conditions to invigorate their product mix, manufacturing process and infrastructure for the betterment of their operations, workers and Maine’s economy.”
The restart news comes after a spate of five major closures in the past three years.
The Rumford mill has the most diverse capacity of products of all of Catalyst’s mills, with capacity for coated specialty grades, uncoated freesheet grades, coated groundwood grades and market pulp.
Catalyst, based in British Columbia, announced last year that it planned to invest $16 million (Canadian) in the Rumford mill, including upgrades to the recovery boiler and about $4.5 million in other capital investments.