The Sappi Somerset Mill in Skowhegan is shown in September 2018. Morning Sentinel file photo

SKOWHEGAN — Sappi North America announced Thursday that it plans to invest $418 million at its Somerset Mill in Skowhegan so it can meet a “robust” demand in North America for packaging, specialty papers and other biomaterials.

Sappi is pushing to increase its capacity on its No. 2 paper machine to produce what’s known as solid bleached sulfate board products, which are an environmentally sustainable alternative to plastic materials. The products are used in premium packaging for cosmetics and perfume, health and beauty care, consumer electronics and other goods.

The investment aligns with the company’s efforts to reduce its reliance on graphic paper, company officials said in a statement. The plant’s No. 1 paper machine previously underwent a similar conversion. That machine is about the length of two football fields and the No. 2 will be a similar length once it is converted.

The expansion project is expected to be completed in early 2025.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement Thursday she welcomes the investment by Sappi, which will support the livelihoods of people in Skowhegan, the region and state.

“Diversifying the forest products we make right here in Maine will strengthen our forest products sector and sustain the good-paying jobs it creates,” Mills said.


A Sappi spokeswoman said the expanded production effort will result in a “modest” number of new jobs. About 780 workers are now employed there.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement the expansion project will support about 1,000 construction jobs. They also said the project will allow Sappi to double its production capacity.

“The forest products industry is a vital part of our state’s economy and identity, particularly in rural communities,” the senators said. “As the industry embraces new opportunities, it’s essential that companies make the necessary investments to evolve with the market and secure long-term success. Sappi has done just that with their recent upgrades at the Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, which supports hundreds of Maine jobs.”

Sappi CEO Steve Binnie said in a statement he is pleased with the company’s performance this past year.

“The outstanding performance was particularly noteworthy within the context of a challenging macroeconomic environment,” he said. “Significant headwinds included extreme weather-related events, lingering COVID pandemic effects in China as well as extraordinary global inflation, which was triggered by geopolitical turmoil and ongoing global supply chain disruptions.”

The Sappi expansion follows another big announcement last week by Louisiana-Pacific Building Solutions that it is investing $400 million at its Houlton plant for a new siding production line. About 100 new jobs are expected to be created there.


Much of the state discussion on Maine mills this year has been against the backdrop of the governor’s race between Mills, a Democrat, Republican opponent former Gov. Paul LePage, and independent Sam Hunkler.

Sappi operations rely on the Kennebec River water that pools behind the nearby Shawmut Dam. The dam is up for federal relicensing and LePage had claimed earlier that Mills would seek to remove the dam, caving to environmental interests that argue the dam impedes the migration of native fish. Mills denied the accusation, saying she would never take any action that would jeopardize jobs at Sappi.

Mills defeated LePage in Tuesday’s election, 55% to 43%.

The Sappi announcement is a much-needed boost to the forest products industry in Maine, particularly in light of the decision this fall by Pixelle Specialty Solutions to close the Androscoggin Mill in Jay early next year.

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