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Western Maine Foothills Region

For The Love Of Paper

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Boise Cascade Corporation, a major player in the paper industry, was able to complete the purchase of the Oxford properties from Ethyl Corp. on April 26, 1976 for a sum of 90 million dollars. Part of the sales agreement was that Ethyl had to complete the waste water treatment in accordance with federal laws or allow funding for its completion.

The Rumford mill fit perfectly into Boise's growing family of pulp and paper mills. It equipped the company with its first major manufacturing operation in the northeast, and provided its first coated paper manufacturing capability. Boise Cascade had thoroughly studied the Rumford facility prior to the purchase. Immediate studies were initiated to determine the best means to modernize the plant that Ethyl had recognized would take millions of dollars to properly automate. The first major change was the centralization and computerization of wrapping and shipping the finished product. In-depth studies aimed at placing Boise Cascade in the lead of manufacturing coated papers showed that a new wide high speed machine was required.

The skyline shortly started changing in Rumford with No. 15 Paper Machine taking shape. This was the first new paper machine to be installed since No. 10 Machine in 1964. No. 15 Paper Machine would come on line in August 1980. These added paper production capabilities were necessary to bolster all other operations. New sources of fiber were needed, as was additional supplies of steam and electricity, as well as an increased ability to recover chemicals. During the 1980's, Boise Cascade also spent millions of dollars to keep the Rumford Mill in the forefront of modern automation and technology. With Boise came the computer age and nuclear source devices that could measure thickness, conductivity, moisture, and quality indexes on materials in a vessel, a pipeline, or on a sheet already formed and traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour.

SEE NOTE Dam Construction at Rumford Falls, ca 1895
SEE NOTE Dam Construction at Rumford Falls, ca 1895

Item Contributed by
Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

A study was conducted in 1985, prompted by the high price of oil as a major source for producing steam and electricity. In 1987 a new company was formed, The Rumford Co-Generation Company, which could burn oil, wood bio-mass, coal, chipped rubber, auto tires, and natural gas as fuel to produce steam at 1250 psi. This steam could be used for producing electricity and, as a byproduct, could be sold for use in the paper plant. Boise Cascade was hired to operate and maintain this new facility in a relationship similar to that, many years prior, between Oxford Paper Company and the Maine Coated Paper Co.

Boise Cascade Corp. maintained its total commitment to keeping the Rumford facility in a position technically, physically, mechanically, and electrically with state-of-the-art paper making equipment.

BOISE CASCADE SOLD TO MEAD

On September 1996, after 20 years of investment in the facility, Boise Cascade Corporation announced that it had agreed to sell the pulp and paper mill in Rumford to the Mead Corporation of Dayton Ohio for $650 million. The cash deal, scheduled for completion by the end of that year, included 667,000 acres of related timberland. The more than 1,400 Boise Cascade employees in Maine were transferred to Mead's work force.

The purchase of the Rumford mill, with an annual capacity of 490,000 tons of coated groundwood and free sheet papers, enabled Mead to expand its coated paper business.

Mead, a $5 billion forest products company based in Dayton, Ohio, produced coated papers for periodicals, catalogs, books, and commercial printing. Mead was also a major producer of paper products for schools and offices, as well as packaging and paperboard.

On June 29th, 1999 The Mead Corp. announced its intention to shut down four uncoated paper machines (5, 7, 8, and 9) at its Rumford mill by Dec. 31, 1999, affecting about 200 workers and resulting in a $25 million charge to the company, mostly in the second quarter, to cover asset write-offs and severance related costs. The four machines had a production capacity of about 110,000 tons of uncoated freesheet and produced uncoated commodity grades and product for use ins specialty applications. The age of the machines and an initiative by Mead to sharpen its focus on producing coated paper led to the decision to shut down the machines.
Number 9 Machine was converted to a pulp dryer, replacing Number 4 machine. In addition, the mill's No. 11 coated paper machine was shutdown in November 1998. It was restarted in early 1999 and permanently shut down on December 2001.

MEAD MERGE WITH WESTVACO

On August 29th 2001, Mead Corp. and Westvaco Corp. agreed Wednesday to merge in a $3 billion stock swap, adding to the ongoing consolidation in a forest-products industry beset with excess inventory resulting from weakening demand and falling prices.

Mead was best known for its school supplies, particularly notebooks, while Westvaco, known for packaging, also produced specialty chemicals.

The new company was named MeadWestvaco Corp., with Mead shareholders owning a 50.2 percent stake in the combined company, and Westvaco shareholders 49.8 percent.

NEWPAGE CORPORATION

NewPage was born out of MeadWestvaco's decision to sell its writing and printing papers business to Cerberus Capital Management L.P. and focus on packaging. On May 2nd 2005, MeadWestvaco Corporation announced that it had completed the sale of its Papers business and associated assets for $2.3 billion to NewPage Corporation, a new company controlled by Cerberus Capital Management L.P., a private New York-based investment firm.

The paper mill has existed for over a hundred years. It has provided the citizens of Rumford and surrounding area a place to work, with a better than average income to raise their families. Some of the current employees are the third or the fourth generations of families employed by the paper industry. Let us hope it continues into the future.

Sources:

A Gazeteer of the State of Maine with Numerous Illustrations, by George Jones Varney , 1836-1901, B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill, Boston, MA., 1881;

History of Rumford, Oxford County, Maine From Its First Settlement in 1779 to the Present Time , by William B. Lapham, Press of the Maine Farmer, Boston, MA. 1890;

Hugh J. Chisholm’s Magic Town, 1882-1912, by Peter McKenna (Master’s Thesis);

The Oxford Story, A History of the Oxford Paper Company, 1847-1958 by John J. Leane and Elliott E. “Bud” Burns, The Oxford Paper Company, 1958;

A History of Rumford, Maine 1774-1972 by John J. Leane and 1972-2000 by Elliott E. “Bud” Burns, Rumford Historical Society, Rumford Publishing Co, Inc., 1972 and Josten’s Printing and Publishing, Topeka, KS, 2000;

Rumford Falls Times

Lewiston Evening Journal