April 06, 2020

Laid-off G-P workers holding on CareerCenter steps in to help bridge gap during mill redevelopment

BANGOR – The most recent news about the redevelopment plan for the former Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill has workers feeling hopeful, but Dan Bird said Wednesday it’s going to be a long winter for the majority of the 450 workers who were laid off when the mill closed March 16.

Bird is working as a peer support worker at the Bangor CareerCenter assisting laid-off G-P workers, and also is vice president of the Local 80 papermakers union.

“The sale closing is still slated for the end of the month,” Bird said Wednesday at a Penobscot County Transition Team meeting in Bangor.

Soon after the mill sale, 54 former mill employees are slated to be brought back to work to fire up the facility’s biomass boiler and to get heat into the buildings again.

“The unfortunate thing is it’s not going to happen immediately and all at once,” Bird said.

The redevelopment plan calls for at least four companies operating at the facility within the next couple of years, including Red Shield Environmental. Red Shield is composed of a group of private investors who intend to manage the site and facilitate the operation of the biomass boiler.

Red Shield’s long-range plan is to convert the biomass boiler from producing electricity to making ethanol by burning wood waste. The conversion phase is expected to take six months to two years, according to Bird.

Tamarack Energy, a renewable energy developer, is the company that actually will operate the boiler.

The other companies that have signed on to bring their businesses to the facility are: Lamtec Inc., a maker of pressure-sensitive labels; and Hallowell International LLC, a low-temperature heat pump manufacturer.

“It’s going to be very exciting the types of things that they’re going to try to do there,” Bird said.

There also is the possibility that other businesses will sign on and move to or start operations at the Old Town facility.

“[State Economic Development Commissioner Jack Cashman] is beating the bushes really hard to fill every corner of space available,” Bird said.

The purchase-and-sale agreement was signed last week by state and company officials. The final closing is scheduled for Oct. 27, but it could be more than a year before all former mill employees are put back to work at the site.

In order to get workers through the next few months, the transition team intends to offer next month another round of health care, basic budgeting, and finance workshops. It also is working to provide fuel and other forms of assistance to workers and their families who might need it to get through the next few months.

State rapid response coordinator Theresa Mudgett, also of Bangor CareerCenter, recommends those who won’t be called back to work in the first couple of rounds of hiring take advantage of available training and classes.

“There’s a lot of resources out there,” she said.

The transition team’s next meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the Penobscot Community Health Care Center on Union Street.

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