Paper company cranks up operations at shuttered West Linn mill
Willamette Falls Paper Co. plans to begin producing paper at a West Linn mill that has been shut down since late 2017.
The new subsidiary of Columbia Ventures Corp. has purchased paper-making machines at the mill. The company also has reached an agreement to lease the mill property and existing buildings for five years, with options to renew after that.
Willamette Falls Paper plans to being production with one of three paper machines at the site. The additional machines may be brought online in the future, which would boffer the company the company to potential to produce up to 260,000 tons of coated and uncoated paper per year.
The company begins operations at the West Linn mill location with 85 employees. That number may increase if more machines are tapped for paper production. The long-term goal at the mill is to produce paper with a focus on sustainability, the company noted in a press release. Plans call for tapping non-traditional sources of fiber, such as pulp from agricultural waste and wheat straw. The company also might use pulp from hemp.
West Linn Paper Co. closed the mill's operations 20 months ago after 128 years in the area. Approximately 250 people were laid off by the shutdown. Brian Konen, the former chief executive officer of West Linn Paper and now president of West Falls Paper, said the new mill operations will provide an opportunity for some of those workers to return to the work for which they were trained.
"Many highly skilled and experienced employees want to return to work in West Linn, and we are excited to welcome them back," Konen said in a statement.
In addition to its role as parent company of Willamette Falls Paper, Columbia Ventures Corp. of Vancouver, Washington, is majority owner of Northwest Straw Pulp LLC. The straw pulp company is nearing completion on its construction of a pulp mill near Starbuck, Washington. The facility is expected to produce 140,000 tons of pulp annually once it is operating at full production. The straw pulp can be used as substitute for hardwood pulp.
Willamette Falls Paper also plans to work with local waste management companies to boost the region's recycling rate for paper in an effort to address challenges associated with recent restrictions on the export of paper waste.