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Jay mill announces plans to close

The Pixelle paper mill is set to close in the first quarter of 2023.

JAY, Maine — Editor's note: The video above aired April 16, 2020.

Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC announced its plans to close its mill in Jay on Tuesday.

The Androscoggin Mill previously witnessed a pulp digester explosion back in April 2020.

No one was injured during the explosion, but the mill itself never fully recovered financially, as the number of people employed there slowly declined over time due to layoffs.

Now, around 230 employees will be affected by the mill closure, Business Wire wrote.

According to Business Wire, the Pixelle mill produces "specialty label and release papers." In addition, the mill also provides the food service industry and eCommerce with industrial and packaging solutions.

In order to undergo operations, the Androscoggin Mill uses two paper machines. Together, they have a capacity of 230,000 tons annually, Business Wire wrote.

Timothy R. Hess, president and CEO of Pixelle, gave the following statement to Business Wire:

"The dedicated and skilled paper-making employees in our mill in Jay, Maine have worked tirelessly to achieve financial sustainability in challenging economic times. They have produced products of the highest quality and maintained a safe work environment. Economic forces beyond our control have combined to make profitable operations at the mill unsustainable. We are grateful for the efforts of the employees and are committed to assisting them with offers of continued employment at other Pixelle locations or outplacement support.”

Gov. Janet Mills' office issued a news release Tuesday containing her statement on the closure announcement. Mills spoke with Hess Tuesday morning about the company's decision.

"I am deeply disappointed, but, more importantly, I am deeply concerned for the livelihoods and wellbeing of those who work at the mill. I was glad to hear that Pixelle will offer all employees health care benefits and severance pay following the end of their employment in 2023, but I am also directing Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman to send a Rapid Response Team to help support the mill workers and provide all available resources to them and their families."

Members of Maine's congressional delegation also spoke out about the closure on Tuesday, calling it "devastating." Sens. Collins and King and Rep. Golden collaboratively stated the following in a release:

"The announcement of the Androscoggin Mill’s closure is devastating news for the dedicated employees and their families as well as for the Town of Jay and the surrounding communities. Following the catastrophic explosion at the mill in 2020, the employees and management team accomplished the incredible feat of reopening two paper machines within just eight days.  They have worked so hard for so long to keep the mill running despite enormous obstacles and strong headwinds, making the news of the closure even more disheartening."

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC) expressed in a news release Tuesday its "deeply concerned" over the announcement.

“We are deeply concerned for those, including many friends and family members of our own members, whose livelihoods will be affected by this announcement,” PLC Executive Director Dana Doran said in the release. “Before the loss of its pulp digester to an explosion in April 2020, the Jay mill represented about 23 percent of the pulp market for the state of Maine and was critical to Maine logging and trucking firms and their ability to properly manage forest health. The decision last year not to rebuild that digester was a huge blow to the industry and the forests, and while very little of the pulp consumed by the mill today comes from Maine, we remain hopeful that a future owner may see the potential it has and create new opportunities for Maine wood fiber.”

On Sept. 14, the office of Sens. Collins and King announced nearly $2.5 million in funding the help strengthen Maine's forest economy. Following the closure of the Jay mill, the funding will help loggers who relied on the mill, which made its own pulp in-house.

"The future of Maine’s forest products industry is bright. With new technologies like cross-laminated timber and biomass energy, the historic sector has a chance to overcome the obstacles of the last few decades and restore jobs in our state’s logging communities,” Sens. Collins and King said in the Sept. 14 release.  

Loggers were already struggling prior to the funding announcement, as the Androscoggin Mill stopped making its own pulp following the explosion. Pixelle made the decision to import pulp from other Pixelle plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Back in May of this year, Business Wire announced that H.I.G. Capital successfully completed its acquisition of Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC. As of Tuesday, no future plans for the Jay mill following its closure have been announced.

“Pixelle will continue to manufacture high-quality specialty solutions for our valued customers at our three specialty mills in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio,” Sr. Vice President of Sales and Marketing David E. Dickerhoof told Business Wire. “Business conditions and the strength of our broad range of products will offer us continued growth opportunities in serving our customers in the specialty labels, food packaging, industrial specialties, and premium printing markets.”

The Jay mill is set to close in the first quarter of 2023.

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