MADISON — The paper machine at the former Madison Paper Industries mill in has been sold to a Chinese company for an undisclosed sum in a move the mill’s new owners say they’re hoping will open up the shuttered facility for redevelopment.
“The issue had been because the paper machine was there, it would be hard for anyone to move in,” said Greg Schain, principal of New Mill Capital Holdings, one of three partners who bought the mill in December.
“Now the machine is being removed, I think it will be a lot easier for someone to envision the space. It’s a good building that’s wide open, obviously with a ton of power, space and infrastructure, so it would be a great place to operate.”
The Somerset County mill closed in 2016, putting about 215 people out of work.
New Mill Capital of New York is part of a partnership called Somerset Acquisition LLC that also includes Perry Videx of Hainesport, New Jersey, and Infinity Asset Solutions of Toronto.
The group is not disclosing how much the Valmet machine sold for or the name of the company that bought it, said Ken Miller, vice president at Perry Videx.
The sale was completed in the summer and the company is moving the machine now, a process Miller said will take three to four months.
A condition of the sale was that the machine not be sold to a competitor of Madison Paper and not be used to produce supercalendered paper, the type of glossy magazine paper the Madison mill produced for 38 years.
Some support equipment and the 550,000-square-foot building that used to house the mill remain for sale. Other items, such as debarking equipment, log grinders, vacuum pumps and other industrial equipment, were sold at auction in June 2017.
“The paper machine was the big thing left, and now that’s being removed, most everything will be gone,” Schain said.
The building is listed with CBRE, a Portland real estate firm, for $2.5 million.
Several manufacturing companies have looked at the site, though Schain said he was prohibited by nondisclosure agreements from naming any of them.
“Whoever comes into the building, they’ll need to invest in it for their own operations,” he said. “They’ll need to customize it, bring in new machinery. It will be a process for whatever comes in, but it will be a long-term investment that will hopefully be there for many years.”
The town of Madison is in the process of applying for a grant through the Maine Rural Development Authority to fund a marketing and redevelopment plan, according to Town Manager Tim Curtis.
“This would be a plan to get stakeholders from the community together to figure out what would be the best fit in that facility and start the hard work of recruiting and finding a business,” he said. “Now the machine is sold and out of the way, I think the process will be a lot easier.”
The site is connected to a natural gas line put in by Summit Natural Gas in 2014 and has access to wastewater treatment at the Anson-Madison Sanitary District. Large-scale food processing or a distillery or brewery are ideas that come to mind for potential redevelopment, Curtis said.
“I think (redevelopment) is a lot more likely now that the paper machine will be out,” Curtis said. “When you have something that’s two stories tall and three football fields long, no one can walk through and get an idea of what the space could be used for.”
In a separate project, the Anson-Madison Sanitary District is also hoping to develop a waste-to-energy facility that could generate additional electricity on-site and assist in making the former mill more attractive.
A request by Madison Paper to get an abatement on taxes the mill paid to the town in 2016 is scheduled to be heard before the Maine State Board of Property Tax Review next week.
“The abatement case is a big deal, because if the board rules in the town’s favor, it’s like a cloud that will finally be lifted and the last chapter in the saga with Madison Paper,” Curtis said. “If the board rules in favor of Madison Paper, we’ll have to find a way to pay back (around $900,000).”
Russ Drechsel, president and CEO of UPM Madison, speaks about the giant paper machine during a tour of the company in Madison on Aug. 20, 2015. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal 2015 file photo)