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Pleasant River Lumber awarded $4.2M grant for $12M project in D-F ; Company carrying out $20M expansion between two mills

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) recently awarded a $4,226,000 challenge grant from the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 program to the Pleasant River Lumber Company. The $4.2 million will be used toward a $12 million expansion at Pleasant River Lumber’s mill on the Milo Road and a larger $20 million initiative between the Dover-Foxcroft location and the company’s Moose River Mill in Jackman.

Pleasant River Lumber Co-President Jason Brochu, who runs the locally owned operation and its five facilities across Maine with his brother Co-President Chris Brochu, said they applied to the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 program and recently learned of the awarding of the approximate $4.2 million challenge grant.

MTI approved seven challenge grants totaling a combined $10.9 million in the final funding round. The program is financed by a $45 million bond approved by voters last June that MTI manages on behalf of the state.

“We ended up with $4,226,000 toward the $12 million project,” Jason Brochu said, saying the company is working on a larger $20 million expansion between Dover-Foxcroft and Jackman. He said financing is in place for the rest of the project.

“That was a very competitive process and it was wide ranging,” Brochu said as 18 projects across Maine received grants. “We put together a real good project for the state of Maine. I think we were chosen because it is shovel-ready and has infrastructure that will be here for a very long time.”

“Basically we are going to add 50 percent to our operating capacity in Dover,” Brochu said. He said this expansion will lead to the creation of about 70 more jobs at the facility, a sharp increase of over 75 percent from the current figure of around 90 employees.

“We are definitely going to need more people to do what we do” Brochu said.

According to the statement from MTI, Pleasant River Lumber “will be expanding and modernizing their Dover-Foxcroft facility with the addition of a new planer mill, continuous dry kiln, and high speed small log sawing line. By utilizing the latest technology, they will be able to efficiently process small logs and balsam fir, both of which currently lack sufficient markets in Maine. This will help meet the needs of Maine landowners and also provide bi-products for the recovering paper mill industry and lumber for the growing Cross Laminated Timber markets.”

“We will be done by the end of 2019,” Brochu said about the $12 million expansion in Dover-Foxcroft. “Everything should be up and running by the end of 2019.”

He said the expansion is a little ahead in Jackman but in the northern Somerset County community the expansion will be more of a hiring process to run another shift of operations. Brochu said the Moose River Mill also has about 90 employees and “we’re about 300 companywide right now.”

With the expansion Pleasant River Lumber officials expect that number to increase by 35 percent over the next five years. At peak expansion, 172 full-time related jobs in construction, logging and trucking will be added.

Pleasant River Lumber Company officials say the combined production of the two mills will grow from 180,000,000 Mbf to 300,000,000 Mbf — a 60 percent increase.

In a statement the company said the expansion comes at a time that is ripe with possibilities for the forest products industry as Sappi recently announced plans to make a large investment in its Skowhegan mill and, following an award of MTI funding, investments will also be made in Verso’s Jay mill. Additionally, the industry is benefitting from the strong support of legislators, large landowners, Maine’s congressional delegation and the state, MTI support for the development of a Cross-Laminated Timber market in Maine, a more level playing field created by border measures and duties on imports from Canadian mills, and a growing U.S. housing market. These elements, together, ensure that the Pleasant River Lumber expansion will not only benefit the mills and surrounding areas, but will continue to grow the industry and benefit the entire state.

“With the new technology in the saw mill we can process a very small log into lumber,” Brochu said, as the log will become a piece of lumber and bi-products such as those used to make paper. He said the improvements at the facility will also be able to process at a faster rate after the expansion project is completed next year.

“This helps the landowner quite a bit because it gives them a higher market and still be in the paper industry,” Brochu said.

Maine mills have historically produced nearly one billion Mbf annually from Maine grown timber. In recent years that number has fallen to less than 500 million Mbf. “Pleasant River looks forward to reversing this trend by buying more logs and putting more Mainers to work,” Brochu said in a statement. “We are hopeful that other Maine mills will follow suit.”

Brochu said Cross Laminated Timber is made up of pieces of lumber glued together to form panels and/or multiple layers. He said the building process has been common in Europe and Cross Laminated Timber companies have been looking at Maine.

“Our growth in volume fits in perfectly with their needs because they consume what we make,” Brochu said. “And that will bring in more jobs to Maine.”

He said the addition of a continuous dry kiln will replace the existing two older models. “The steam usage will be lower and more consistent so we can use the boiler we have now which a huge savings,” Brochu said.

“We are very excited to go forward with this project in order to process more of our Maine grown trees right here in our Maine mills,” Chris Brochu said in the statement. “Maine logs should create and support Maine jobs to the greatest extent possible. We are proud to make the necessary investments, with the help of MTI and stakeholders across the state, in order to achieve this important goal.”

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
$4.2 MILLION GRANT FOR PLEASANT RIVER LUMBER — The Dover-Foxcroft-based Pleasant River Lumber Company has been awarded a $4,226,000 challenge grant from the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.0 program of the Maine Technology Institute. The $4.2 million will help fund a $12 million expansion at the mill on the Milo Road as well as a larger $20 million project between Dover-Foxcroft and Pleasant River Lumber’s Moose River Mill in Jackman.

Observer photos/Stuart Hedstrom
UPGRADES TO PLEASANT RIVER LUMBER — An approximate $4.2 million Maine Technology Institute grant awarded to the Pleasant River Lumber Company will fund part of a $12 million project to expand and modernize the Dover-Foxcroft facility with the addition of a new planer mill, continuous dry kiln, and high speed small log sawing line. By utilizing the latest technology, the company will be able to efficiently process small logs and balsam fir, both of which currently lack sufficient markets in Maine. This will help meet the needs of Maine landowners and also provide bi-products for the recovering paper mill industry and lumber for the growing Cross Laminated Timber markets.

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