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PGE, partners will carry on with waterfront development in West Linn as planned

PHOTO: AMANI DUNCAN - The mill formerly ran by West Linn Paper company will reopen under Willamette Falls Paper Company this summer. The West Linn Paper Mill is set to reopen as Willamette Falls Paper Company, a new branch of the Vancouver, Washington-based holding company Columbia Ventures Corporation.

The Willamette Falls Paper Company recently bought all of the paper-making assets that used to belong to the West Linn Paper Company, which closed in late 2017. These assets include three paper machines.

According to a press release from Willamette Falls Paper Company, the company will soon begin operating one of the machines with about 85 employees. Further down the road, the company hopes to make use of the other two machines and employ more workers. When West Linn Paper closed, it employed 250 people.

Willamette Falls Paper Company will eventually begin "sustainable paper-making" using pulp from wheat straw, agricultural waste and hemp, the press release states.

West Linn Paper Company's former Chief Operating Officer, Brian Konen, will lead Willamette Falls Paper Company as president.

"We look forward to working with former customers to produce the quality products that they need," Konen stated in the press release. "Paper has been a part of the West Linn community for 130 years, and I am confident there are many more years of production ahead of us. Our previous employees were shocked and disappointed when the mill shut down 20 months ago, and it has been a goal of mine to find a new owner and restart the plant. Many highly skilled and experienced employees want to return to work in West Linn, and we are excited to welcome them back."

Willamette Falls Paper Company entered into a five-year lease agreement with renewal options with Portland General Electric, which owns the property and is currently in the middle of plans for redeveloping the entire waterfront area around the mill.

PGE Vice President Dave Robertson said at a community meeting in West Linn last week that the news of the mill reopening hasn't deterred PGE's planning process.

"Whatever happens down there at the mill, we've got to be ready for that," Robertson said.

Columbia Ventures CEO Ken Peterson remarked that the company will look for new ways to contribute to West Linn and the Willamette Falls area.

"As we re-establish the business, we also intend to look for other ways to contribute to the economic life of the community outside of just pure paper-making," Peterson said.

According to Peterson, the process for acquiring the mill and getting it ready to restart was quick and easy.

"I am very optimistic because we were able to quickly develop a business plan to justify acquiring and reopening the paper mill," Peterson said. "I am thankful to the various parties, including Portland General Electric, for working quickly and cooperatively to make it happen."

About the mill

— Opened in 1889 as "Willamette Pulp and Paper"

— Closed for a short time in 1996 before reopening in 1997 as West Linn Paper Company

— Most recently specialized in coated free-sheet web paper

— Closure happened after sudden pulp shortage halted operations

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