The recent news that a cross-laminated timber manufacturer plans to open shop on the site of the former Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill means the site of another defunct Maine paper mill is in line for some redevelopment.
Here’s a look at where redevelopment stands at other mill sites where papermaking operations have stopped since 2008. Paper mills in Madawaska, Baileyville, Skowhegan, Rumford, Jay and Westbrook have continued to operate through that time.
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The mill site has been under the ownership of a local nonprofit organization, Our Katahdin, since 2017. LignaTerra, the manufacturer that now plans to build a factory in Lincoln, initially planned to open up on the Millinocket site but called off those plans because of a federal tax lien lingering over the property.
Our Katahdin is still working on the mill site’s redevelopment. In July, the group announced it had reached a settlement with the IRS to resolve the site’s tax debt. With that tax debt resolved, the group will be able to access a $5.3 million federal grant that will allow Our Katahdin to invest in the site’s infrastructure. The organization has said the site has drawn interest from businesses in the aquaculture, food production and data center industries.
East Millinocket: Papermaking stopped for good in February 2014 at the Millinocket mill’s longtime Great Northern Paper Co. sister site. Bankruptcy proceedings led to the December 2014 sale of the site to Hackman Capital Partners. Ownership has since changed, with a Florida company that specializes in demolishing obsolete properties, North American Recovery Management, buying the property in March 2016. At one point, a potential suitor that proposed to build a biorefinery fought to halt the mill’s demolition, but then ran into financial hurdles.
The property’s owner is currently listed as Katahdin KI 50, LLC, which has the same principal as North American Recovery Management.
Lincoln: Lincoln Paper and Tissue never fully recovered from a November 2013 boiler explosion. The mill filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2015, leading to the layoff of the 128 remaining employees.
The town bought a portion of the mill site in March 2018 that it’s now calling the Maine Forest Products Innovation Park. It plans to lease or sell some of that land to LignaTerra, the cross-laminated timber manufacturer.
The town is pursuing a federal Superfund designation to fund the cleanup of the remainder of the site.
Old Town: Of the six mills where papermaking and pulping operations have stopped since 2008, Old Town is the only mill where such operations have resumed. ND Paper, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper that also owns the paper mill in Rumford, restarted pulping operations over the summer, hiring 130 workers.
The mill had been idle since the end of 2015, when Wisconsin-based Expera Specialty Solutions shuttered the mill it had acquired just a year before. Before Expera bought the property out of bankruptcy in December 2014, Old Town Fuel and Fiber had been closed for four months.
Bucksport: Verso Paper shut down its Bucksport operation at the end of 2014. Since then, site owner American Iron and Metal has continued operating the mill’s power plant while demolishing much of the mill.
This year, AIM has completed deals to sell three parcels of the mill site. Whole Oceans, which expects to break ground on a land-based salmon farm in November, bought more than 100 acres in May. Maine Maritime Academy, which plans a continuing education annex to train professional mariners, bought 4 acres in June. And in March, Bucksport United Methodist Church bought two buildings across the street from the mill site.
More recently, a New York firm applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval of its plans to buy the 161-megawatt on-site power plant from AIM Development LLC.
Madison: Madison Paper Industries closed in 2016, eliminating 214 jobs. In August, a Belfast startup called GO Lab reached a $1.9 million deal to buy the mill property from New Mill Capital Holdings, a partnership that bought it in December 2017. New Mill held an auction in June 2017 to sell off equipment and other assets.
GO Lab plans to make wood fiber insulation from softwood chips that it says will be renewable, recyclable, nontoxic and perform as well or better than products now on the market.