Sometimes you have to take a risk, and sometimes big risks pay off in a big way.

That certainly looks like the result of the big chance Maine took this winter in regard to the Katahdin region paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket.

Facing the dismantling of the two mills, the permanent loss of hundreds of good manufacturing jobs and a way of life for a whole community, Gov. LePage and the Legislature gave the state authority to take over a leaky industrial landfill, creating an opportunity for a new operator to buy the papermaking operation.

The liability is formidable: Environmentalists predict that the state will pay at least $17 million sometime in the next decade to clean and close the landfill and $250,000 a year to operate and maintain it until then.

But the payoff is also big, which became apparent this week with the announcement that Cate Street Capital of Portsmouth, N.H., will buy the mills and reopen them.

As a condition of the sale, the state will take control of the landfill — but only if the papermaking operation is revived. The deal is not yet final, but if it goes through, this is great news for a region that can’t afford to lose more jobs.

As many as 200 East Millinocket papermakers could return to work by early October, filling standing orders for virgin newsprint. Other workers would follow as customers are lined up for recycled newsprint and the magazine-style paper made in Millinocket.

If the deal is completed, there will be a lot of praise to go around. The recipients will include a foresighted investor, the workers of the Katahdin region and state economic development officials, including the governor himself, who was fully engaged in saving these jobs.

But the negotiations would not have worked if the state could not promise to take over the landfill. The mills would have only drawn interest from firms that wanted to dismantle them and send the papermaking machines to India or China. The jobs would have gone with them, and neither would have ever come back.

Maine cannot afford to lose any more jobs of this quality. The governor and the Legislature took the right risk and it is paying off.