EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The California investor who bought the local paper mill for $5.4 million at auction in December has “moved on” from marketing the facility to newsprint manufacturers, a representative said Wednesday.
Hackman Capital Partners of Los Angeles will instead seek “other users for the site that can sustain their industry for the next 30-plus years,” Steve Durkee, president of Interstate Construction Services, said in an email.
“This region has a very viable forest products industry and that could expand along with other logistics companies that may need a portion or portions of the site,” said Durkee, who described Interstate as a partner with Hackman.
Selectman Mark Marston said Interstate was the company clearing space in the mill’s recycling room for potential tenants and selling papermaking equipment over the last several days, an activity Durkee confirmed.
“Today, the materials leaving the plant are systems and components of the paper mill that other mills in the region have purchased,” Durkee said. “We are seeking to keep as much of that in the region to improve the other operations of mills that are still running to hopefully increase their longevity and productivity so hopefully paper remains a viable industry in Maine.”
Board of Selectmen Chairman Mark Scally expressed impatience with Hackman’s lack of communication with town Administrative Assistant Angela Cote during a meeting about two weeks ago.
“We would like more communication,” Scally said Tuesday. “We have been told that Hackman is talking to the state, but somebody has to talk to the town side of this.”
The former Great Northern Paper Co. LLC mill closed in February 2013, laying off 212 of 256 workers and devastating the Katahdin region economy. The mill made newsprint and telephone directory-grade paper. Since its purchase of the mill, Hackman has kept a handful of workers on to maintain the property.
Scally and Marston expressed enthusiasm that Hackman would repurpose the mill site as successfully as it has handled previous projects. Starting in 1999, the company turned a 2-million-square-foot General Motors plant in Michigan into two buildings totaling 1.6 million square feet that are now 85 percent occupied with a variety of businesses.
“I have a good feeling about them. They are marketing the building to some potential tenants and taking out unneeded equipment,” Marston said Wednesday. “They are getting things ready to repurpose the mill.”
“My fingers are crossed. At least they are trying to find some uses for the building. It could have been a lot worse. They have kept the building heated,” Scally said. “Why would they do that if they wanted to scrap it? They must have some plans for it. I hope they are good. I hope they pan out.”
The East Millinocket mill is drawing some interest from investors, Durkee said.
“We are fielding requests on the real estate and hope those discussions are further advanced in a month or so, but they take time,” he said.
Company spokesman Michael Goldfarb said in a recent email that Hackman is working to find someone interested in selling electricity to the marketplace made by the mill’s biomass boiler, “but those are complex conversations and will ultimately be determined by their ability to sell energy into the market.”
Hackman hopes to save several plant buildings “that can service multiple industries,” Goldfarb said.
He noted the site has excellent access to rail and trucking via I-95 and the existing structures could provide warehouse space.
“Hopefully, we can save those facilities and bring back jobs for the community,” he added.