One of Maine’s greatest business success stories of 2012 was recently celebrated by business, political, and community leaders in “The Town That Paper Made.” In April 2011, hundreds of papermakers lost their jobs when Katahdin Paper Company’s East Millinocket mill closed, helping to push the region’s unemployment rate to nearly 22%. By September 2011, Cate Street Capital purchased the mill, along with its sister facility in Millinocket. Just one month later, Cate Street Capital reopened the East Millinocket mill under its most revered historical name – Great Northern Paper (GNP) – and 215 people were back to work. Fast forward to October 2012. GNP’s workforce stands at 257, and it continues to hire workers for its second paper machine.
GNP officials and employees hosted a one-year anniversary celebration at the mill today. They were joined by state and local political figures, community and business leaders, retired and current employees, and their friends and families to commemorate the important milestone. Two restored, antique, brass plaques with the original names of each paper machine, “Katahdin” and “Penobscot,” were unveiled during the ceremony.
Cate Street Capital President and CEO John Hallé said, “We are proud of Great Northern Paper’s progress and growth, but we are not done. We will continue to invest in the mill, and improve GNP’s operations and efficiencies. In addition, we are committed to developing Thermogen’s torrefied wood production plant in Millinocket, which will create more than 36 new jobs as well as new economic activity for Maine’s forest products industry.”
“Cate Street recognized that there is a market for Maine-made paper and they seized the opportunity to get this mill started again. This helped put some great millworkers back on the job and it’s had a positive economic ripple effect throughout the Katahdin Region. This mill and the jobs it supports are critical. I look forward to future growth as we work together to do everything we can to create more jobs and bring additional opportunities to this area,” said Congressman Mike Michaud, who worked at the East Millinocket paper mill for nearly 30 years before being elected to Congress.
George Gervais, Commissioner, Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, also attended and said, “Congratulations to all the employees who are back to work and whose futures look a lot more promising now than they did before the paper machines fired back up last October. I believe the future for Great Northern Paper and the future of economic investment in this region is bright.”
Duane Lugdon, Staff Representative, United Steelworkers, said, “It has been a pleasure working with Great Northern Paper to bring life back to the East Millinocket assets. While there may have been moments of anxiety in the timeline to success - the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Some of the best paper makers in the world and a management team that has been absolutely focused on and driven by a desire to provide good jobs to good people have reached this milestone together as true partners. My congratulations to each and every one.”
Richard M. Cyr, GNP President and CEO noted the mill experienced some bumps along the road, as all new companies do. But, he said, the employees worked together to solve every problem. “We all came together and overcame every challenge, and against great odds we are celebrating a successful first year, with even bigger and better things to come. We plan on being here for a long time to come. Great Northern Paper is committed, determined, and looking forward to our future.”