In a rare bit of good news for Maine’s paper industry, a Rumford paper machine that was shut down indefinitely last year has come back to life and dozens of people have been offered their jobs back.
Paper Machine No. 12 was temporarily shut down in May, prompting the layoff of 51 people at the Catalyst Paper mill. In September, management said the machine would remain shut down indefinitely, citing reduced market demand.
But the machine restarted at noon Tuesday, and all of the 51 workers furloughed when it was shut down have been recalled.
“It’s always good when you can invite people back and it’s always good when you can start making a product for a new market,” said Tony Lyons, mill spokesman.
With the recalled workers, the mill now employs 640. The Rumford mill is the largest of the five mills owned by Catalyst.
Lyons said Catalyst started developing new product lines to diversify its offerings in the global pulp and paper market. One of those new products is Rumford Offset, a specialty grade of paper that is coated on one side and intended for use in marketing materials.
“We’re trying to develop more options, away from commodity grades,” said Lyons.
The Rumford Offset will be made in 50-, 60- and 70-pound weights. The No. 12 machine previously made coated paper for magazines and catalogs.
Depending on demand for the new paper, the mill could be in the position to do some limited hiring, said Lyons.
When the company idled the machine last year, it reduced production of printing and writing paper by 88,000 tons per year. The Rumford mill annually produces about 260,000 tons of coated freesheet paper, about 170,000 tons of coated groundwood and about 52,000 tons of specialty coated one-sided paper. The mill also produces market pulp.
The Rumford mill was purchased by British Columbia-based Catalyst last January for $62.4 million. Formerly owned by NewPage Corp., the mill changed ownership at the time Verso Paper Corp. was preparing to buy NewPage. Since then, Catalyst has invested more than $9 million to upgrade the mill’s boiler, part of a plan to have the mill sell excess electricity during winter months, according to Catalyst’s 2015 annual report.
“We intend to leverage the energy island we have here,” confirmed Lyons.
The news about No. 12 was welcomed by the trade organization representing Maine’s paper industry.
“The restart of Catalyst Rumford’s No.12 machine reinvigorates our stance that pulp and papermaking in Maine is alive and well, and 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,” said a statement from the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, which noted that pulp and paper products are the top export from Maine. “We cannot lose sight of the importance of this industry to this state.”
Five Maine mills have closed, or are closing, in the past five years, resulting in a loss of 2,300 jobs.
In Bangor on Tuesday, equipment from a pair of shuttered paper mills went up for auction.
The gear is from Expera Fiber Mill in Old Town and Lincoln Paper & Tissue. The Old Town mill closed in September and the Lincoln facility followed in November.
WLBZ-TV reported that a group of six former Lincoln Paper & Tissue employees and dozens of people from the community are making an effort to purchase the machines needed to reopen the Lincoln mill.
More than 300 mill workers lost their jobs when the mills closed.
Source : pressherald.com