North America’s largest specialty paper company is buying Old Town Fuel & Fiber, which has been shut down since August.

Expera Specialty Solutions, based in Wisconsin, issued a statement Tuesday saying it has entered into an agreement to acquire the pulp mill and that it plans to invest in the plant to assure the “highest level of production quality and capacity.”

New York-based private equity firm Patriarch Partners closed Old Town Fuel & Fiber indefinitely Aug. 14, furloughing 180 workers. The mill, founded more than a century ago, also was researching the development of biofuels made from wood.

Expera owns four paper mills and employs about 1,800 people in Wisconsin. It manufactures specialty paper products for use in pressure-sensitive release liners and industrial and food packaging.

The company already has a presence in Maine through a supply agreement that gives it control over the output of one of the paper machines at Verso Paper’s Androscoggin Mill in Jay. The 10-year agreement expires in 2015.

Expera was established last year by KPS Capital Partners, a private equity investment company with more than $6.2 billion in assets. It owns manufacturing facilities in 26 countries.


Expera CEO Russ Wanke said in a written statement that the purchase will increase the company’s integration into pulp and provide financial stability to the Old Town mill.

Rosaire Pelletier, senior forest products adviser at the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, had said Monday that the buyer planned to restart the mill and rehire workers.

Gov. Paul LePage welcomed Expera’s investment and its goal of getting the mill in operation as quickly as possible.

“This is terrific news for the future of Maine’s forest products industry,” LePage said in a written statement Tuesday.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, noted that there is still a lot of work to be done before the sale is finalized and people are brought back to work. Still, she applauded the efforts of Expera and all those involved in the sale.

Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, said the sale is good news for both the Old Town area and the entire state of Maine.


“Expera will find a great workforce with deep experience at this mill who I’m sure will be happy to get back to work doing what they have done so well over the years,” King said.

The sale is expected to be completed before the end of December.

The Old Town mill has the capacity to annually produce more than 200,000 tons of pulp, which is used to make a wide variety of paper products.

It’s one of several mills on the market. There are reportedly several bidders on the idled Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket, which closed in January and laid off more than 200 workers a few weeks later. Great Northern Paper filed for bankruptcy in September.

Verso Paper has announced that it would close its paper mill in Bucksport on Dec. 1, putting 500 people out of work. The governor told Portland’s WCSH-TV that there have been serious discussions with potential buyers, but his office hasn’t been brought in.


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