RUMFORD — ND Paper announced Monday that it plans to invest $300 million in its mills in Maine and Wisconsin over the next two years, including $111 in Rumford that will sustain 650 jobs and add 50 more.

ND Paper, the newly formed U.S.-based subsidiary of Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd. that has mills in Rumford and Biron, Wisconsin, is the largest containerboard producer in Asia.

“We’re just thrilled to be investing in the state of Maine,” said Brian Boland, vice president of government affairs and corporate initiatives for ND Paper Mills. “We’re excited to be investing into the sustainability of this paper mill. We want this thing to be here for another hundred years, and not just survive, like we have over the past few years. And these investments will help us get there.”

The investment into the Rumford Division will finance two significant projects:

Installation of a shoe press on the R15 paper machine, which will increase the machine’s production capacity by approximately 20 percent.

Construction of a greenfield recycled pulp facility. This pulp line will add approximately 1,200 air-dried metric tons per day of manufacturing capacity to the site.

Boland said the R15 paper machine is the largest and newest machine at the Rumford mill, which runs three paper machines and one pulp dryer.

A $111 million investment announced Monday by ND Paper will sustain 650 jobs and add 50 more to the Rumford mill’s workforce over the next two years. “We want this thing to be here for another hundred years,” says a company executive.

He said R15 runs about 300,000 short tons a year of paper, serving coated-free sheet markets, coated mechanical paper markets and coated one-side markets for label products.

“It’s a pretty diverse product mix,” Boland said. “What a shoe press does is that it helps pull water out of the sheet. All a paper machine really is is a big dryer. You put a wet solution of pulp and water on one end and you just dry it through the whole length of the paper machine. What starts at 99 percent water comes out at the end at 6 to 8 percent water.”

The shoe press removes water so the machine can run faster, or run more fiber at the same speed.

“So your capacity goes up,” Boland said. “This adds up to 20 percent additional capacity on the machine.”

The current capacity will increase to 360,000 tons a year.

“This helps us to further commit to our existing base of customers,” Boland said. “The side benefit is that the more tons you produce on a machine, the more cost-competitive you become because you have a certain load of fixed cost that you have to carry at the mill.

“It helps the sustainability of the mill over the long term because you can weather the downturns in the business.”

The additional 50 employees, who are expected to be hired over the next two years, will result from the recycled pulp facility.

“What that involves is collecting scrap paper from places like Boston and Portland, basically the Greater New England area, that would potentially be landfilled or burned,” Boland said.

“We will collect it, pulp it into bales that we will either consume internally, which is the most likely option, into the Nine Dragons’ manufacturing platform, or potentially sell. But all odds are that we’re going to consume most of that ourselves.”

Boland, who said he has been working with the Rumford mill since 1996, said this is an exciting time for the mill.

“We’re looking forward to working with the state to get a little help,” he said. “We’re working the local workforce to staff up. We’re excited to put the investment here and get this mill even more competitive than it is today.”

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