MADISON — The former Madison Paper Industries mill is one step closer to being back in action, this time as the continent’s first producer of wood fiber insulation.

GO Lab Inc., a Belfast-based building products manufacturer closed on a $1.9 million deal to buy the building last week, after announcing plans to do so in April. The listing price was $2.5 million.

The company’s president, Josh Henry, said that once hiring is complete, the Madison facility — which will be called Timber Pure Technologies — will employ 120 people, slightly more than previous estimates. The first round of hiring will take place next fall, when production of the first product begins.

We’ve already hired three people that used to work at the former UPM paper facility, and they’ve been a tremendous asset to us in understanding the value of the building and how best to operate it,” Henry said.

GO Lab Inc. of Belfast closed on its purchase of the former Madison Paper Industries mill in Madison for $1.9 million last week. Morning Sentinel file photo by David Leaming

Timber Pure Technologies will make three types of wood fiber insulation, called EM Board, EM Batt and EM Pack. Wood fiber insulation has been on the market in Europe for over two decades but never before in North America, according to Henry. GO Lab used to import it from across the Atlantic Ocean, which Henry likened to “shipping air” due to the product’s low density.

“When it comes to its advantages, besides being renewable, recyclable and not toxic, (wood fiber insulation) is superior in soundproofing and vapor permeability, which is important in letting houses breathe,” Henry said. “There is a lot of moisture in the air during the wintertime and that moisture can condense in wall systems, which is something you really don’t want. The pink and blue rigid foam boards like you see on construction sites have zero vapor permeability. Wood can wick moisture and allow (the house) to breathe.”

Henry would not specify what prices the Timber Pure Technologies products will sell at, but indicated that they will cost “in the middle of the range between the lowest and highest insulation” currently available on the market.

Right now, GO Lab is in the process of moving its recently purchased equipment from Germany to Maine, where it will be installed in its new home this spring.

“That facility (in Germany, called Homanit) had been operating and producing product until the end of 2018, and we had been purchasing their product and using it in our buildings,” Henry said. “When they decided to cease operations, they gave us the opportunity to buy that manufacturing equipment, which was relatively new, at a fairly affordable price, which gave us a cost advantage. We were able to really quickly seize opportunity to disassemble and reassemble that back in Maine. If we had to order that equipment new, it would be a three to five year process. So it’s not only a monetary advantage, but a time advantage.”

Madison Paper Industries shuttered in May 2016. While Timber Pure Technologies is still a ways away from fully running, Henry said he is thrilled about the progress the company has made so far. The company had wanted to open a wood fiber insulation manufacturing plant in Maine for over three years.

“We’re really excited to have reached this milestone and to work together with the town of Madison and state of Maine,” he said. “We’re Mainers and we’ve been working on this for a long time. We’re really gratified to be able to do this in Madison and bring that human resources pool, the talented people who used to work at the mill, and put them back at the mill and produce a great product for state of Maine.” 

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