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Gorham Paper and Tissue Mill up and running...again

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 09. 2014 9:34PM
Gorham Paper and Tissue is expected to be up and running later this week but operating at half its capacity and with fewer workers. A new business plan was approved by the mill's ownership group. (UNION LEADER FILE)

GORHAM - Gorham Paper and Tissue is expected to be up and running later this week - but operating at half its capacity and with fewer workers - after a new business plan was approved by the mill's ownership group.

Gorham Paper and Tissue (GPT) CEO Mike Cummings said last week that Patriarch Partners, the mill's owner, has given the go-ahead on the new business plan for the company. The plan, which Cummings said has been in development over the last four to six months, involves operating GPT's towel and tissue machines on a full-time basis, while two other paper machines will remain idle.

"We received tentative approval for this business plan on Wednesday, and full approval the next day," said Cummings. "Our owner is providing the funding so the mill can start back up. People in the North Country have been waiting for this news."

Cummings said he spent Friday afternoon contacting vendors to get the pulp and supplies needed to start but the tissue machine.

"The target is to have the tissue machine up and running by (tonight)," said Cummings. "It takes a little longer to get the soda ash we need to operate the towel machine, but our target date for that machine to be operational by is Wednesday. By the end of the week, both machines will be turning out saleable products."

Cummings said about 100 people will be employed once both machines are running. Beginning Monday, employees are asked to check in with GPT's time office each day after 3 p.m. to receive their work schedule.

The mill has been closed since its July Fourth holiday shutdown. A power outage on July 8 caused some damage to the tissue machine, according to Cummings and repairs were finished just last week.

Back in January, GPT announced layoffs of about 40 employees and a plan to operate only two of the company's four paper machines through the winter months, blaming the changes on a surge in natural gas prices.

GPT uses natural gas to create the steam it needs during the making of paper. Last December, GPT shut down production at the mill for three days, from Dec. 14 to 16, due to the high prices.

GPT was shut down for eight months in 2010 after Fraser Papers declared bankruptcy in 2009. It was eventually purchased by New York investor Lynn Tilton of Patriarch Partners.

In his monthly report dated Aug. 7, Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier promised to make grant money available to the mill if needed.

"I have pledged to GPT the city of Berlin's Community Development Block Grant funds allotment and hope the continued support of the area communities stay true," writes Grenier. "GPT is important to our communities, let's hope that a solid business plan is developed and implemented. It's been a painful 20 months for suppliers and vendors, let's hang in there a bit longer."

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