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The new owner of the Old Town pulp mill has hired 130 workers and expects the reopened facility will begin producing pulp by August, a major turnaround for a plant that shed nearly 200 jobs when it closed in 2015.
More than 1,000 people applied for the open positions at the Old Town mill, which was bought in October by ND Paper, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd.
Since then, the company has been restarting systems at the plant, which it says will eventually produce 275,000 air-dried metric tons of unbleached pulp. That type of pulp is generally used for making paper.
There have also been about 300 contracted workers on the site, as well as employees from ND Paper’s mill in Rumford who have been guiding the restart, according to company spokeswoman Amy Lee.
“There’s quite a lot of activity at the mill — a big change from a few months ago when there were only a few dozen ND Paper employees on-site,” Lee said. “We are working around the clock to ensure the mill is fined-tuned for a safe restart and on-track to move into commercial pulp production this month.”
ND paper plans to hold a grand reopening ceremony for the Old Town mill Aug. 13.
Before the mill closed in 2015, it produced 155,000 air-dried metric tons of bleached hardwood pulp. Its owner at the time, Expera Speciality Solutions, blamed the shutdown on the declining value of the Canadian dollar, excess pulp supply in the marketplace and relatively expensive lumber wood costs.
ND Paper, which is based in Illinois, already operates three other mills. It purchased the Rumford one in June 2018. That plant employs more than 650 workers and produces one and two-sided paper, specialty papers, and market pulp.
Its other two facilities are in Biron, Wisconsin, and Fairmont, West Virginia.
As it brings the Old Town mill back online, the company has been awarded about $12 million in tax credits through the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program, which is meant to draw investment to low-income areas.