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Sappi Announces $418 Million Investments to Expand Production at Somerset Mill in Skowhegan

Andy O’Brien
18 Nov, 2022
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Sappi North America announced last week that it plans to make a $418 million investment in the Somerset Mill to meet the “robust” demand in North America for packaging, specialty papers and other biomaterials. The investment will be used to convert its No. 2 paper machine to increase its capacity to produce solid bleached sulfate board (SBS) products.

In a press release, the company said that the demand for packaging and specialty papers has increased because SBS is a “more environmentally sustainable alternative” to plastic packaging. SBS is used in packaging for cosmetics and perfume, health and beauty care, consumer electronics, confectionary, luxury drinks and more. Foodservice items such as plates, dishes and cups also use SBS as a sustainable alternative to plastic.

“This is great news for the mill and the entire paper industry,” said Justin Shaw, President of USW Local 4-9. “When a company makes an investment like this, it means that younger workers in their 20s and 30s will be able to one day retire from their jobs here.”

Once converted, the No. 2 paper machine will be about the size of the No. 1 machine, which previously underwent a similar conversion, according to the Morning Sentinel. The company said the investment will add a “modest” number of new jobs at the mill and 1,000 construction jobs during project build out. The expansion project is expected to be completed in early 2025.

Mike Brown, President of IBEW 1768 at the Sappi mill, said it wasn’t clear yet how many jobs would be added, but the best part of the investment is that it ensures the mill will continue operating for many years to come.

“It gives us some stability for the next 20-30 years, probably,” he said. “The country as a whole is trying to get away from plastic packaging and I think that’s really pushed Sappi to invest in paper packaging.”

"We are excited for the move forward and feel it is a great investment for Kennebec and Somerset counties," said Mike Theriault, President Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America Local 550, which represents members at the mill.

In a statement, Mike Haws, President and CEO of Sappi North America said that the decision complements the company’s long-term Thrive25 strategy, which focuses on expanding production of packaging and specialty papers, pulp and biomaterials

“Somerset’s existing world-class infrastructure and success in producing high quality SBS products, together with its talented workforce, make the mill an excellent and obvious choice for this investment,” said Haws. “Increasing our flexibility and expanding the paper mill’s capability and capacity will ensure that we continue to make superior products at Somerset for years to come.”

The planned project is slated to come online early in 2025.