- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

OLD TOWN, Maine (AP) - A day after one Maine mill filed for bankruptcy, another one in Old Town announced it’ll be closing less than a year after it was restarted, putting nearly 200 people out of work.

The two announcements in one week spell more trouble for Maine’s once-thriving paper industry, which already has seen mills close in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Bucksport.

Wisconsin-based Expera Specialty Solutions blamed market conditions for the decision to shutter its Old Town facility, saying that a weak Canadian dollar and depressed pulp prices combined with still-high wood prices in Maine to create a tailspin.

“The combination of these forces does not allow sustainable operations even with a dedicated and talented team of employees,” said Russ Wanke, president and CEO of Expera Specialty Solutions.

The Old Town plant supplied pulp to the company’s mills in Wisconsin. It’ll close in December, just shy of a year after the company purchased it.

Democratic Sen. Jim Dill of Old Town said the shutdown is “a huge economic blow for our region, and devastating news to the mill’s workers and their families.”

On Monday, Lincoln Pulp and Tissue filed for bankruptcy. The operator hopes the Lincoln mill will auctioned within 45 days to another company that will keep it running.

Gov. Paul LePage, who was holding a town hall meeting in Bucksport, where the Verso paper mill has closed, has urged lawmakers to work with him to redouble efforts to lower energy costs in Maine.

Don Berry, president of the Maine AFL-CIO, said “failed trade policies” are also to blame, causing “a race to the bottom, depressed wages, and undermined American manufacturing.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the men and women who work at Lincoln Paper and Tissue and at Expera in Old Town,” Berry said. “We call on all state officials to remain laser focused on working to find new buyers and keep these facilities open. That should be everyone’s top priority.”

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