LP converted its OSB mill in Houlton, Maine, to LSL production, using a steam-injection process. Credit: Courtesy of Business Wire

HOULTON, Maine — Louisiana Pacific Corp., a publicly traded company based in Nashville, Tennessee, said it would invest approximately $150 million into its LP Houlton mill to begin manufacturing its SmartSide product, a type of advanced engineered wood strand siding, there.

LP Houlton, located in New Limerick, has been manufacturing the company’s Oriented Strand Board and Engineered Wood Products building materials, which are mainly used in interior home design. The SmartSide products are used on the exterior of wood homes.

The Houlton mill was chosen in part due to the area’s ample access to aspen trees, the wood LP uses in its manufacturing process, according to LP spokesperson Breeanna Straessle. She also said the change in production would help increase its demand for locally sourced materials.

“With this conversion, we estimate it will increase our locally sourced annual fiber consumption by about 30 percent,” Straessle said. “Which of course benefits the supply chain in the local community.”

Straessle also said that of the $150 million invested, about $110 million would go toward the new machinery needed to produce the siding, and that $40 million would be used to upgrade different parts of the facility. She also said it would include training for the mill’s approximately 160 employees for the upcoming changes.

“We will need all of our employees to manufacture SmartSide,” she said. “While a lot of the work is transferable from one type of mill to another, there are some unique aspects to manufacturing SmartSide that we will have to train our workforce on.”

The new cash coming into Aroostook and the prospect of increased supply chain demand has drawn the attention of the state, including Gov. Janet Mills. She expressed hope that LP’s decision would help bolster the economy of Aroostook County, and praised the company for choosing to invest in the people of Maine.

“I am excited to welcome this investment, which is a tribute not only to the County but to the folks who work hard there day-in and day-out,” Mills said. “This will strengthen the economy by sustaining good-paying jobs in the facility and up and down the local supply chain. I thank LP Building Solutions for their confidence in Maine and Maine people and look forward to working closely with them as they move forward with this investment.”

LP said in its fourth quarter report that it hoped to begin SmartSide production at the mill in 2022, and the location will cease production of its Laminated Strand Lumber products for its EWP division sometime in the coming year.

In the report, LP CEO Brad Southern said the change was due to increased demand for its SmartSide products, and also praised LP employees for their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID made 2020 a difficult year for LP employees, our customers, their families and the communities we all serve,” Southern said. “Our results are a testament to their resilience and determination, and I am extremely proud of the results we achieved in the face of these challenges.”