JAY – Approximately 230 employees, along with their families, will be impacted by the upcoming closure of the paper mill on the Androscoggin River in Jay.
Pixelle Specialty Solutions LLC announced Tuesday, September 20, that the mill will close in the first quarter of 2023. The mill produces speciality label and release papers, along with industrial and packaging materials for e-commerce and food service.
The two paper machines have a capacity of 230,000 tons annually.
The mill has endured significant business and financial challenges that were compounded by the April 2020 rupture of one of its pulp digesters and catastrophic damage impacting the continued operability of the entire pulp mill. No one was injured in the event, and the mill subsequently transitioned into higher margin specialty products and invested capital to increase operational efficiencies while operating on purchased pulp.
“The dedicated and skilled paper making employees in our mill in Jay, Maine have worked tirelessly to achieve financial sustainability in challenging economic times,” said Timothy R. Hess, President and CEO of Pixelle in the news release. “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.”
“We are devastated by the news today,” wrote Shiloh LaFreniere, the Jay Town Manager. “Our immediate concern is the welfare of the workers and their families as well as the community members that will be affected by the closing, especially in this difficult economy. There are a lot of questions that we will be asking ourselves and the mill in the coming days to figure out the best path forward for our community but for today, our thoughts are with the employees and the mill.”
Pixelle will offer all employee health care benefits and severance pay following the end of their employment in 2023. In addition, the State Department of Labor will send a rapid response team to help support the mill workers and provide resources to them and to their families.
State and federal representatives issued statements following the announcement.
“We’re saddened to hear about the proposed closing of the mill in Jay. It has been a vital part of our wood products economy and has been operating in Maine for over half a century,” said State Senator Russell Black, R-Franklin in a news release. “While it’s heartening to hear that Pixelle will offer the mill’s employees health care benefits and severance pay when the mill closes in 2023 and the Maine Department of Labor’s Rapid Response Team will be deployed, it doesn’t make up for the loss of the livelihoods of those who have dedicated their careers to the mill.”
A joint release from U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, along with Congressman Jared Golden, said, “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 CEO of Pixelle, Tim Hess, called me earlier today to share the sad news of the mill’s closure,” Governor Janet Mills wrote. “Since the digester explosion, my administration has been communicating frequently with mill officials to offer our support. And during our conversation today, I asked Mr. Hess if there is anything the state can do to prevent the closure of the mill and he said that, unfortunately, there is not. He said that if there had been, he would have asked, and I told him that I would have done everything within my power to help.
“I am deeply disappointed, but, more importantly, I am deeply concerned for the livelihoods and wellbeing of those who work at the mill,” Mills continued.