SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Sappi will invest about $418 million to boost the production of packing and speciality papers at its Somerset Mill in Skowhegan.
Sappi is a paper mill company with locations around the United States and other parts of the world. The Somerset Mill manufactures graphic papers, packaging and label papers and bleached chemical pulp, according to the company’s website.
The growing market in these types of paper products gives workers in an economically depressed area more job stability going into the holiday season.
One of the paper machines at the Somerset Mill will convert from producing coated woodfree graphic paper to solid bleached sulphate board, Sappi said in an announcement Thursday. The machine’s capacity is expected to nearly double once the project is complete in early 2025.
Sappi is seeing demand for packaging and specialty papers around the country, and customers are increasing orders, the company said. Chief Executive Officer Steve Binnie also announced record earnings this past year. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the investment will generate new jobs at the Skowhegan mill.
“Somerset’s existing world-class infrastructure and success in producing high-quality SBS [bleached sulphate board] products, together with its talented workforce, make the mill an excellent and obvious choice for this investment,” said Mike Haws, Sappi North America president and CEO, in a statement. “Increasing our flexibility and expanding the paper mill’s capability and capacity will ensure that we continue to make superior products at Somerset for years to come.”
Bleached sulphate board is used in packaging cosmetics, perfume, consumer electronics, and luxury drinks among others, according to Sappi. Food service items including plates and cups also use the material as a sustainable alternative to plastic.
Gov. Janet Mills welcomes the investment, which she said will support the livelihoods of people in Skowhegan, the surrounding area and Maine.
“Diversifying the forest products we make right here in Maine will strengthen our forest products sector and sustain the good-paying jobs it creates,” she said in a statement issued Thursday. “My administration will continue to stand by Sappi and the hardworking men and women who work there as we strengthen Maine’s economy in the years to come.”
Sappi will rely on free cash flow from operations to fund the project, the company said. The capital expenditure will be broken into phases over three years.
“By investing in our business to pursue growing areas of demand, we can remain profitable and competitive in the global marketplace,” Haws said.