February 16, 2018

Verso restarting paper machine, adding 120 jobs at Androscoggin Mill

Courtesy / Verso Corp.
Courtesy / Verso Corp.
Verso Corp. announced Thursday a $17 million project that will upgrade the currently idled No. 3 paper machine and create 120 full-time jobs at its Androscoggin Mill in Jay.

Verso Corp. announced a $17 million project that will upgrade the currently idled No. 3 paper machine and create 120 full-time jobs at its Androscoggin Mill in Jay.

The Sun Journal reported the announcement coincided with news from the Maine Technology Institute that Verso won a $4 million challenge grant toward Androscoggin Mill to upgrade its No. 3 paper machine, allowing the equipment to restart for the manufacture of packaging grades.

The increased production is expected to create approximately 120 full-time jobs at the mill, according to MTI's news release.

The company temporarily idled the No. 3 machine in January 2017, laying off 190 employees, and then shut the machine down in July 2017 as a result of declining demand for the graphic paper products formerly produced on the machine.

"The hiring will probably be over time, but we're expecting the machine to start up in the third quarter, so there will be hiring in the time between now and then to prepare and to start the machine," Verso spokeswoman Kathi Rowzie told the newspaper.

In a news release issued Thursday, Verso stated the project "will help Verso continue to diversify its product mix into growing market segments."

"Verso identified this upgrade and restart of the No. 3 paper machine and associated equipment at the Androscoggin Mill as part of our continuing development of a holistic strategy that includes repositioning of certain assets," Verso CEO B. Christopher DiSantis said in the statement. "We want to thank Gov. LePage and the Maine Technology Institute for their support in helping to make it possible.When this project is completed, the Androscoggin Mill will be more competitive in the global marketplace and better positioned for future success."

The upgrade comes on the heels of Verso's announcement in January that its "strategic alternatives committee" created last fall would expand "its evaluation of potential alternatives to include other alternatives, including but not limited to, a potential sale or merger of the entire company."

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, issued a joint statement characterizing Verso's announcement as "welcome news for the hardworking men and women at Verso Paper and for communities in central and western Maine."

The senators said the company's investment builds on strategies outline by the Economic Development Assessment Team, which they originally requested in March 2016, "which brought together local, state, federal, and industry partners to work together to build a bottom-up strategy to foster innovation and commercialization for the future of Maine's forest-based economy."

Loggers' trade group issues statement

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine issued a statement of support today for Verso Corp.'s plan to restart the No. 3 paper machine and pulp line at its Androscoggin mill in Jay, stating it will have a positive effect on professional loggers and their families throughout Maine.

"This is great news for our state's logging industry and we are hopeful that the reinvestment and commitment this move demonstrates is a sign of things to come in our state," said Dana Doran, the PLC's executive director. "Our members are very supportive of our paper mill partners and workers, and the mills are vital to our industry. We applaud Verso for this move and for the confidence its shows in the strength of Maine's workforce, especially the harvesting and trucking suppliers."

As reported by Mainebiz in September 2016, Maine's loggers are a vital part of the state's forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $8.5 billion annually. Maine's logging industry contributes $882 million to the state's economy each year and supports more than 7,300 direct and indirect jobs in the state.

Doran stated that PLC "has and will continue to work with its members, paper mill partners, and local legislators to seek solutions to the challenges facing the pulp and paper industry in Maine and the loggers who supply roundwood, clean chips, and biomass to local mills."

"This should be a reminder that now is the time for Maine's legislators, business leaders, communities, and industries to pull together and support every effort to enhance our forest products economy," he said. "There are good things happening in that economy and many opportunities on the horizon for growth and success, but the whole is threatened if our logging workforce is unable to survive, and that means we must support markets for wood fiber from biomass to pulp to saw logs that enable our loggers to remain in business."

The Miamisburg, Ohio-based company has focused on restructuring since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2016 — efforts that included reducing the Jay mill's workforce from 560 to 400 workers and shutting down the mill's No. 3 paper machine in July 2017.


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