By Kathryn Skelton, Staff Writer
JAY — Verso Corp. announced a $17 million project Thursday that will upgrade the No. 3 paper machine and create 120 full-time jobs.
The announcement coincided with news from the Maine Technology Institute that Verso had won a $4 million challenge grant toward the Androscoggin Mill project.
The company had idled the No. 3 machine in January 2017, laying off 190 employees. Verso employs 400 people in Jay.
Verso spokeswoman Kathi Rowzie said the new jobs would be open to anyone and employment ads should start appearing within a few weeks.
“I think a lot of the people who were laid off have moved on to other jobs in other places,” she said. “The hiring will probably be over time, but we’re expecting the machine to start up in the third quarter, so there will be hiring in the time between now and then to prepare and to start the machine.”
No. 3 had been making graphic paper for magazines, catalogs and similar uses.
“Obviously, there’s been a big decline in demand for those kind of papers over recent years just because of the internet,” Rowzie said.
“The new products will be packaging products. This will help us diversify the kinds of products that are made at Verso, and allow us to move into market segments that are actually growing.”
The $4 million grant will be a “big help,” she said, thanking both Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Technology Institute for their support.
Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said after a few challenging years, she was happy that some jobs are returning to Jay.
“We’re certain that the dedication of Androscoggin Mills’ management and employees made Verso’s decision to invest in Jay the right one,” LaFreniere said.
“We are also very pleased to hear that the state of Maine, through the Maine Technology Institute, is supporting and investing in the success of the mill. We look forward to continuing to be the home of the Androscoggin Mill and hope that this is the beginning of many great changes for them.”
“Today is a good day for mill workers in and around Jay and their families, and for our community as whole,” said Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay. “Last year when 120 workers lost their jobs, I remained hopeful that it would only be temporary and employees could one day return to the mill. Our local workforce boasts some of the most dedicated, hardest-working people in the world, and they more than deserve the second chance they are getting today. I plan to continue my work in the Legislature to encourage Maine’s manufacturing economy.”
The six projects funded by the Maine Technology Institute on Thursday are expected to generate 1,151 new jobs and $379 million in total economic output in Maine, according to Thursday’s announcement. Verso’s award was the largest of the six.