Paper Industry Charts Plan for Navigating 'Challenging Times'

By Fishell, Darren | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), November 17, 2015 | Go to article overview

Paper Industry Charts Plan for Navigating 'Challenging Times'


Fishell, Darren, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


BANGOR, Maine -- Maine's paper industry is down, but not for lack of effort.

The industry's power to draw a crowd was clear Tuesday, with more than 200 people ranging from woodlot owners and loggers to paper mill managers, economic development officials, lawmakers and lobbyists gathering in Bangor for a daylong summit.

Pulp and paper's challenges served as the backdrop for a range of broader economic and infrastructure issues Maine faces, from energy to workforce development to transportation.

By the end of the event organized by the Maine Pulp and Paper Association, energy costs and high property tax valuations emerged from a survey of attendees as the top priorities for saving the legacy industry in Maine.

One case study on the issue of tax valuation will be offered later this week, with the sale of the Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill, for which the starting bid is about 10 percent of the property's assessed value.

The goals identified Tuesday give industry officials and lawmakers some direction heading into the upcoming legislative session, but MPPA Chairwoman Donna Cassese said it's not decided yet what law or policy changes the group will propose to state government.

"What we have to decide is whether there are some quick wins. If there are just two or three quick things, we'll do that," she said. "I think we've got some momentum now."

The day highlighted some bright spots amid the spate of mill closures, layoffs, bankruptcies and other bad news, making the case that the industry's long-term survival needs more coordination.

St. Croix Tissue in Baileyville was mentioned throughout the day as a positive tale for the industry, based on its plans to start two tissue paper machines in the next year that will ship parent rolls of tissue to Virginia for final processing.

That investment is already on its way into the state, but the Baileyville mill still faces challenges compared to other parts of the country.

Scott Beal, spokesman for affiliate Woodland Pulp, said the adjacent pulp mill's energy prices are about triple that of the company's sister mill in Oregon. And the company is still considering how to transport its parent rolls down to Virginia for finishing, he said.

"Energy costs are a major concern for us," he said.

The company also reflects an example of changes in energy markets, as it draws natural gas through its own pipeline connected to the north-to-south Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline.

Patrick Woodcock, head of the Governor's Energy Office, said discovery and harvesting of natural gas from shale deposits to the west have created one of the most rapid shifts in energy markets in the last 50 years. …

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