More than 100 new jobs will be coming to Millinocket if plans for a new laminated wood products manufacturing company stay on track in the coming year.
During a press conference Tuesday morning at Husson University, LignaCLT Maine officials said they will manufacture cross-laminated timber, an environmentally friendly product that competes with concrete and steel fabrications.
The millions of acres of surrounding Maine forests provided a compelling reason for LignaCLT Maine to set up shop on a portion of real estate once owned by the Great Northern Paper Co. in Millinocket. But as Nick Holgorsen, one of the company’s founding partners, told reporters, that wasn’t the only motivating factor.
“The Our Katahdin people, like I mentioned I couldn’t be more happy to be established with such a great group of people,” Holgorsen said. “I think they’ve got a very common mission with us, we share a lot of the same core values.”
And the feeling is mutual. Our Katahdin Inc., a volunteer development group, purchased the shuttered mill a little more than a year ago for $1 and began working with the Millinocket Town Council to revitalize the regional economy.
Michael Seile Jr., a spokesman for the group, said the arrival of LignaCLT Maine was exactly the kind of business his organization had been hoping to attract to the former mill site.
“This is a huge announcement,” he said. “As stewards of this mill site that our fathers and grandfathers and entire families worked at, we believe that this is putting it back to work in the spirit that it should be — in the forest-based economy.”
LignaCLT Maine LLC, a division of the North Carolina-based LignaTerra Global LLC, plans to produce cross-laminated timber, a product that can be used in structural framing in place of concrete or steel. The company uses low-value softwoods such as spruce and fir to prefabricate solid wood strips and panels that are lightweight but very strong, and have high acoustic, fire, seismic, and thermal performance.
Holgorsen, one of LignaTerra’s co-founders, said the cross-laminated timber production process got started about 20 years ago after lumber companies began weighing the value of cast-off cuts.
“They started throwing it together, adding glue, and then somebody came up with the bright idea of turning them at right angles. So what they do is lay out long tables of one-by-fours, two-by-eights, whatever it is that comes into this process, they’ll lay it down in a single layer all in the same direction and they’ll put a layer of glue on it, and then they’ll put another one on top of it at a right angle,” he said.
By repeating the process several times and placing the wood under pressure, the layers form a material that Holgorsen said can reduce construction time by more than 33 percent.
Those products and others will be manufactured on 35 acres of the mill’s 1,400-acre parcel, and Holgorsen said the plant should be operating within a year, employing more than 100 people.
Financing arrangements for the new company are currently in the works. Brien Walton, director of the Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business at Husson University, is working with the company to identify other potential investors. He insisted that LignaTerra Global is committed to the project, but declined to identify the degree of that commitment.
“We’re not going to disclose that at the present time because there are different partners that are involved, they do have equity resources available — significant resources. They will be the major owner and equity holder of the company,” Walton said.
Some of the company’s new employees could eventually come from the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures & Composites Center, where the benefits of wood laminate construction have been researched for years. Holgorsen said the campuses at Husson University and the University of Maine offer tremendous opportunities for future cooperation.