The Maine Pulp and Paper Association has folded.
Donna Cassese, chairwoman of the 50-year-old trade organization, told Mainebiz today that members were informed Jan. 13 that the group was disbanding immediately. She said the association had taken steps to economize in response to closures of several pulp and paper companies in recent years, but those efforts proved insufficient to keep the organization going.
"We simply do not have enough current support to continue our mission," she said. "The need for a unified voice for the pulp and paper industry is as strong as ever and we are exploring several alternatives to meet this need."
Cassese, who is managing director of wood resource strategy for Sappi North America, said Maine's remaining pulp and paper companies, including Sappi, which has mills in Westbrook and Skowhegan, are continuing to make investments and are working hard to remain competitive.
Sappi North America, a leading producer and supplier of diversified paper and packaging products with two mills in Maine, announced last August it is moving forward with a $25 million capital project to update the woodyard at its Somerset Mill in Skowhegan. Other investments include the $120 million St. Croix Tissue mill in Baileyville that resulted in 80 news jobs being created in Washington County and Twin Rivers Paper Co.'s $12 million investment to upgrade its Madawaska paper mill and its decision to move its research and development operations from Montreal to Orono.
Cassese also highlighted the Maine Forest Economy Growth Initiative's nine-point strategy unveiled last week to attract capital investment and develop new opportunities that will sustain good-paying jobs in Maine's rural communities and begin to reverse the forest product industry's $1.3 billion decline in total economic impact since 2014, due largely to the closure of six mills and two biomass power generation plants in the past three years.
"The industry is evolving," she said. "We are looking at other markets, all the mills are looking at other opportunities and making investments. That's a good thing."
The Maine Pulp and Paper Association's website lists 21 members, which collectively represent $113 million in tax money each year, support directly or indirectly 17,000 jobs and export approximately $5 billion in products.
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