The owner of the Jay paper mill said Wednesday that it would not rebuild the digester that was destroyed in an April explosion.
Pixelle Specialty Solutions said it will continue to operate two paper machines using pulp sourced from other mills, including some in Maine. The third paper machine that was damaged by the explosion will be idled permanently and the pulp mill will not be rebuilt.
The company will keep more than 250 full-time employees, down from the 468 at the time of the explosion. The company already has had three rounds of layoffs totaling 177 workers.
Pixelle CEO Timothy Hess said the company intends to continue to invest in the mill. The company said it has established a $1 million fund to support job retraining for former employees displaced by the pulp digester rupture.
Gov. Janet Mills issued a statement Wednesday afternoon calling the news of the shut pulp machine and mill “another blow to Maine’s vital forest products sector.” She said the state will help those affected by the decision and provide unemployment and transition services to those laid off earlier.
The mill will focus on specialty papers such as bleached and natural kraft products for food packaging and pressure-sensitive release liners and labels. Since April it has been working to assess the damage, which halted manufacturing for eight days and initiated months of recovery and planning to keep the mill running, the company said.
One former worker told Maine Public last week that he worried about people moving away and local businesses like convenience stores and gas stations losing money because those who lost their job couldn’t spend as much.
But others, like Bob Berry, who runs a land-consulting company in nearby Livermore Falls, said the lost jobs and the pandemic are challenges the region can weather.
“We have some incredibly tough people that in the past had been knocked over, kicked and dragged around,” he told Maine Public. “And they know how to recover from something like that.”
Pennsylvania-based Pixelle completed its purchase of the Jay mill in February as part of a $400 million deal with Verso Corp.