Sappi Limited announced this week their plans to invest $165 million at their Somerset mill site in Skowhegan.
Company officials shared what this vote of confidence from corporate leaders means for the future of the mill, which employs 750 people.
Sappi officials say the 165-million dollar investment to rebuild paper machine number one at the Somerset site will expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities and ensure further enhancement of products to graphic paper customers.
That machine was built in the early 1980s.
“During that whole period of time, we primarily made coated graphics paper. As we looked to the future, we’re looking at how to expand in different products- and those products are going to be consumer packaging, in addition to the coated graphics that we make today,” said John Donahue, VP for Procurement at Sappi Limited.
Sappi will continue to lead in the graphic papers market, but will also branch out into paper-based packaging, which will increase the mill’s annual production capacity to almost one million tons.
Sappi’s commitment to Maine and Somerset County has been praised by Governor LePage, the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, as well as the employees that work there.
“With all the mills in the state of Maine that are going through hard times, it really gives them comfort to know that we have a company that has a vision, and that we have a company that is putting more money into the infrastructure so that we’re around for a long time,” Patrick Carleton, President of the United Steelworkers Local 9.
“The vote of confidence that our corporate leaders gave us is really for two key reasons- number one is the people. The people at this site have shown continuous improvement, have shown the ability to take capital money and execute it well to keep this place a very profitable and prosperous mill. That, along with our assets and infrastructure- it’s really laid out to go ahead and take this kind of investment and really prosper with it down the road,” said Tony Ouellette, Managing Director at the Somerset mill.
Company officials are proud of their talented workforce at the Skowhegan site, some of whom lost their jobs during mill closures in Bucksport, Jay, and Madison.
“Probably upwards of 50-75 of these displaced workers over just the last three to four years are now working for us,” said Ouellette.
The project is slated to come online in early 2018.