Verso Corp. announced plans Thursday to upgrade the shuttered pulp line and No. 3 paper machine at its Androscoggin Mill in Jay, bringing back an estimated 120 jobs and enabling the company to restart its equipment for the manufacture of packaging products.

The paper machine and associated pulping capacity were temporarily idled in January 2017 and shut down in July of that year as a result of declining demand for the graphic paper products formerly produced on the machine, the company said in a news release.

With an anticipated completion date in the third quarter of this year, the project will help Verso continue to diversify its product mix into growing market segments and is expected to create approximately 120 full-time jobs at the mill and additional jobs throughout the Maine forest products supply chain, according to the company.

Terry Bergeron, chairman of the Jay Board of Selectmen said by phone Thursday afternoon that the announcement is fantastic news for the town. He said Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere will issue a statement on the town’s reaction to the news.

“Naturally, it is fantastic news, but that’s all I really know about it,” Bergeron. “We’ll have a statement that will be coming out on this. It was fantastic news.”

The total capital cost of the project is estimated at about $17 million, $4 million of which will come from a Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 challenge grant administered by the Maine Technology Institute. Funds from the grant will be become available as certain milestones in the project are reached.

“Verso identified this upgrade and restart of the No. 3 paper machine and associated equipment at the Androscoggin Mill as part of our continuing development of a holistic strategy that includes repositioning of certain assets, and we want to thank Governor LePage and the Maine Technology Institute for their support in helping to make it possible,” Verso Chief Executive Officer B. Christopher DiSantis said in a statement. “When this project is completed, the Androscoggin Mill will be more competitive in the global marketplace and better positioned for future success.”

Verso Corp. announced last July that it would shut down the No. 3 paper machine at its Androscoggin mill in Jay, resulting in the elimination of 120 jobs there — nearly a quarter of the workforce.

Verso’s struggles are part of an ever-growing string of closures and layoffs that have plagued Maine’s paper industry in recent years. Five mills have closed in the last few years — including Verso’s closure of its Bucksport mill in 2014, with more than 500 lost jobs; and the Madison Paper mill closure in May 2016, which put more than 200 people out of work. More than 2,300 Maine workers have lost their jobs since 2011 as the industry reels from declining global demand for paper.

The Androscoggin mill laid off 300 employees in 2015 as part of a plan to reduce production capacity. Verso then emerged from bankruptcy in the summer of 2016 and had about 560 employees at the time.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow