When the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket permanently shut its doorways in 2014, 80% of the town’s tax foundation and the livelihoods of many households in the region went with it. Now, a previous U.S. congressman who labored at the mill for a long time has emerged as the most significant cheerleader of the site’s redevelopment.
Its future could include solar panels, biofuels, and biochar.
This tale is element of our series “Climate Driven: A deep dive into Maine’s reaction, one county at a time.”
Driving about the East Millinocket mill web-site on a sunny early morning in late June, Mike Michaud remembers the time when it was the middle of the community.
“It was the greatest employer, the largest taxpayer and men and women from all all-around the location worked in this article,” he claims. “It devastated the neighborhood and the region when the organization closed.”
Michaud comprehended the devastation far better than most. He’d commenced operating at the mill just after superior college. His activism as a union millworker led to a political job which includes 12 yrs symbolizing Maine’s 2nd District in Congress.
Immediately after he remaining that write-up in a unsuccessful bid for governor, he assumed a scaled-down elected situation — chair of the East Millinocket selectmen. Now he’s active in redeveloping the mill site, which the city bought two decades in the past. Just one of the tenants, Logistics Administration Systems, is leasing the mill’s previous paper warehouse.
“That warehouse is total of paper, wood solutions, designed here in Maine, and it’s a very occupied place, and it is excellent to see that the mill web site is starting to get revitalized — some in the forest items sector, and other people into new technologies, such as solar,” Michaud suggests.
Photo voltaic will be a large portion of Convalt’s options for the mill web-site. The New York organization designs to develop a neighborhood photo voltaic farm, and hopes to establish a plant in this article by 2023 to recycle old photo voltaic panels.
A further company hopes to make wooden-derived biofuels, like those people utilised to warmth the campus of Bates Higher education. Another hopes to create biochar, a local climate-welcoming fertilizer.
But Michaud states he doesn’t intention to make a type of eco-friendly-tech hub. He’s primarily intrigued in attracting a diverse group of employers.
“How can we diversify, so we’re not dependent on a person sector. That diversification, when you appear at it in the foreseeable future, is really in some of the environmentally friendly technology, solar,” he claims.
There’s a good deal of guidance for that eyesight in the place.
“I never think in climate alter, but I do imagine in eco-friendly electrical power,” says Clint Linscott, who serves along with Michaud on the board of selectmen and on a nonprofit that oversees the mill redevelopment.
Linscott operates a automobile mend shop on Key Road, and says he’s looking forward to the mill’s revitalization.
“My family’s from listed here, my dad’s a millworker, my granddad’s a millworker, I was a millworker. I obtained completed back in the mid ’80s, and started off my company listed here on Primary Street. Everyone wished me luck, they did not imagine I could make it, since the only position you worked here was the mill, and that was exactly where the money was. And it is unhappy to see it gone,” he claims.
Throughout the street at the article business, Carla Boutaugh suggests she, also, misses the mill.
“I was fortunate. I always mentioned I was blessed to be equipped to operate down there, it gave my relatives a superior living,” she states. She worked there for 22 years.
“Guide labor, you know, pulling wood, feeding grinders, getting Mike’s work when he went to the State Residence,” she claims with a chortle.
Boutaugh states she supports the revitalization strategy, and that the total town is rooting for Michaud.
“We have got a excellent guy behind it. Mike’s seriously a pusher. And he’s put his coronary heart and soul into the town and the mill,” she claims.
Back at the mill web-site, Michaud reveals off a huge swath of green room at its western edge, together the West Branch of the Penobscot River, exactly where he envisions walking trails.
“You could have a brew pub, resort, condominium all in one particular here, in this particular place. This is a ideal area. You have the Dolby Flowage. On the other facet you can really see Mount Kathadin. It’s a stunning location. And I’m advised that it is fantastic bass fishing concerning the two dams,” he suggests.
It really is a lofty desire, due to the fact much of the mill web page is composed of weedy patches of pavement winding past 50 percent-demolished properties and piles of rubble. And there have been potholes in the street to redevelopment.
Regular Biocarbon, the biochar corporation, has adjusted its options, and decided to build its very first plant in Enfield, although it continue to hopes to inevitably develop a task in East Millinocket. Two organizations had hoped to develop knowledge facilities on the internet site. One particular of those people lately dropped out, but the other is relocating forward with its ideas.
And Michaud remains undeterred.
“I am pretty optimistic. It’s not heading to occur overnight. And I’m extremely careful about what we advertise out there in the general public. We haven’t experienced any open up dwelling or everything like that since all much too normally you hear, well, this organization is coming, and it never reveals up. You do not want to construct up expectations and let them fall,” he says.
For now there’s just the paper warehouse, a handful of Convalt staff offering safety to the website, and a vision of what could be.
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