In a boon for Maine’s hard-hit and changing wood products industry, a Canadian-based organic waste company announced Thursday it plans to open its first U.S. facility in an industrial building in the town of Unity and eventually create 30 jobs while investing $4 million.

Envirem Organics will open its facility in a building on 15 acres at 39 Cornshop Road in Unity, where it will house offices, warehousing, and distribution functions, according to the Kennebec Regional Development Authority, the organization that helped Envirem choose a location.

Brad Jackson, executive director of the development authority, said in an interview Thursday that wood products was one of several “cluster” industries he has been looking to get to the region. The $4 million investment is estimated to involve a complete build-out of the 30,000-square-foot facility in Unity, including new equipment and machinery purchases.

“This won’t happen overnight,” Jackson said. “It will be phased in over a couple of years.”

The company describes itself as a “diversified environmental company, specializing in industrial and organic waste recycling and environmental sustainable waste diversion processes,” according to a news release from the development authority. Envirem selected the site in Unity “for its access to the New England organic lawn and garden markets, available shipping lanes, the environmental science programs at Unity College, the sustainable culture of the area, the local artisanal food movement, and proximity to New Brunswick, Canada, where the company is headquartered,” the release said.

“Unity and the Kennebec Valley region of Maine checked all the boxes for our first expansion into America,” Bob Kiely, president and general manager of Envirem, said in the release. “It provides the marketplace advantages we desire in terms of workforce, location, and infrastructure and the quality of life we want for our employees.”

A new report released this month by the Maine Forest Products Council says the total economic impact of Maine’s forest products industry fell from $9.8 billion in 2014 to $8.5 billion in 2016, with corresponding declines in payroll and local taxes as well.

Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, said he was pleased to hear the news Thursday about Envirem’s planned Unity facility.

“To me, it looks like they’d have a line of mulch and that’s always been an important part of moving sawmill residuals,” he said. “They should think about locating at a sawmill.”

Strauch, in a summary within the new report proclaiming “the forest products industry is reinventing itself,” writes that the industry has reached a turning point. Even as pulp and paper mills have closed, “technology and changing demands have transformed the global market, but also created opportunities.”

Strauch said the market for bark and wood residuals will he helped by Envirem’s presence, perhaps sustaining a year-round demand for material that’s traditionally been more seasonal. “I think we’ve always been pretty creative with these materials and moving into the bark markets has always been part of the mix, but if we’re able to develop even more demand for it, that’s great,” Strauch said. “We’re searching for markets like this to take a large amount of tonnage, so it’s an opportunity.”

The Kennebec Regional Development Authority said it has been working with Envirem on the expansion to the last couple of months. The development authority was established in 1999 through an agreement more than 20 municipalities in Kennebec and Somerset counties, and its showcase achievement is the 285-acre FirstPark business park in Oakland.

Development authority officials also said in the release that the Envirem expansion could help the state’s struggling logging industry, in the wake of several mills closures such as Madison Paper.

In August, the federal government and industry officials that make up the Economic Development Assessment Team met with wood products industry leaders and community members to talk about the future of the paper and forest products industry. The so-called EDAT team will come up with a plan with key steps toward economic growth in the industry.

The development authority said Envirem’s products “utilize a part of the tree that makes logging more profitable, representing the types of investments that offer actionable opportunity for the forest economy.”

Jackson also said to expect more Canadian investment in the region, because Envirem could establish several operating sites across the state over the next decade or so, with Unity being the company’s U.S. corporate headquarters. Kiely, the company president, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Envirem’s new foothold in Maine lays a promising economic foundation with those other planned sites across the state. One of the company’s primary lawn and grass brand name customers, he said, is Scotts Turf Builder.

Jackson called the company’s move a “key part” of economic growth in the region because of those “substantial multiplier.”

“What he’s doing is making use of that part of a tree that makes logging profitable,” Jackson said of Kiely and his company. “There is a huge market for that segment. This becomes a huge market displaced by the logging industry — that’s where I think the real win is.”

In Canada, the company employees nearly 1,400 people among eight locations, “and that job growth was in just the last few years,” Jackson said.


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