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March 15, 2016

Workers 'blindsided' by Madison mill closure

Illustration / Matt Selva
Illustration / Matt Selva

The news came out early Monday morning, and it was something many feared would be coming — the Madison Paper Industries mill in Madison would be closing in two months, and with it, 214 jobs would be lost.

As quickly as the news broke, so too did public acknowledgment of its impact.

U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins released a joint statement about the closure, calling on fellow lawmakers to join in a task force to "dispatch an Economic Development Assessment Team to marshal the resources of the federal government and work closely with state and local officials to develop strategies that will spur innovation and job growth for Maine's forest products industry."

The immediacy of the closing was noted by state Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, the House majority leader, in a statement about the closing.

"More than 200 workers were blindsided by this news. I met with workers just last week and heard no hint of this," he said.

The Maine Department of Labor released a statement saying that it has assigned a team to assist workers during the closure, and that it "can advise and assist employers and employees with information about their rights, responsibilities and obligations during such an event to safeguard the economic stability of workers and the surrounding community."

In the same release, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said the decline of daily newspapers likely contributed to the loss of demand leading to the closure.

"With the rapid decline of daily newspapers and other publications, it is not surprising the demand for supercalendered paper is plummeting. This unfortunate situation illustrates the challenges Maine companies face in the national and global marketplace. That's why it is more important than ever to make sure Maine is competitive in attracting new job creators and retaining existing companies by lowering taxes, reducing energy costs and providing a welcoming atmosphere for businesses and capital investment."

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine issued a statement of support for the affected workers and communities and reiterated its call to the LePage administration and state legislators to take action to sustain the Maine logging industry before it is too late.

"Maine's forest products industry needs direct action by the state's elected officials if it is to survive," PLC Executive Director Dana Doran said. "For Maine loggers, the closure of Madison Paper means the loss of the last major buyer of spruce-fir pulp in the state. Now is the time for our elected officials to support legislation to help loggers and the industry."

Doran's statement noted LePage and the Maine Legislature are currently discussing two bills that would provide relief to Maine's embattled logging industry. The first, LD 1481, is designed to provide relief to industries including professional loggers by exempting them from sales tax on fuel — including off-road diesel — used in commercial wood harvesting. It's expected to go to a floor vote as early as this week. The second bill is now being drafted to support the state's faltering biomass electric industry, which is suffering from low-priced competition from natural gas and from expiring renewable energy credit agreements with neighboring states. The industry has seen two biomass plants owned by Covanta Energy close this year, causing job losses and retractions for logging companies in the northern half of Maine

The closing of the Madison mill is the latest in a series of blows to the once prosperous paper industry of Maine, including the January auction of Lincoln Paper & Tissue production machinery and the sale of the Great Northern Paper Mill in East Millinocket to a company specializing in demolishing out-of-date properties announced on March 8.

Read more

Report: Maine's forest economy fell $1.3B since 2014

King supports incentives for alternative forest product R&D

Production ceases at Madison mill after nearly four decades

As auction begins, Lincoln Mill workers look towards possible restart

Forest industry voices support for biomass aid bill

Lincoln and Old Town paper mills heading to auction

Mill closure and town’s future a hot topic at Madison town hall

Lincoln Mill intellectual property sold to liquidators

Madison Paper mill shuttering in May

Former Great Northern mill under new ownership — again

FocusMaine: Making the case for jobs in ‘traded’ sectors

Expedited hearing sought for sale of Lincoln mill's IP rights

Madison Mill production schedule in further flux

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