New pulp mill promises jobs and clean air

Michigan State Roundup

Published January 1, 1996  | January 1996 issue

A pulp mill to be built along the Menominee River by year-end 1997 will create new jobs while pleasing environmentalists concerned about preserving the Upper Peninsula's natural resources.

The $250 million Aspen Bay Pulp and Fibre mill will use a process that replaces poisonous chlorine with hydrogen peroxide to bleach the wood for conversion into pulp. Aspen Bay will be the first pulp mill in the nation to use the Swedish technology called "bleached chemical thermo mechanical pulp." This environmentally friendly process also eliminates the noxious odors associated with paper plants and uses half as many trees as the traditional kraft method of pulping.

"We have a very large wood fiber source in the immediate area," says Tom Kuber, Aspen Pulp and Fibre's chief executive officer. The mill will use mostly aspen trees, an abundant supply that grows rapidly, that will be shipped by rail from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario and Michigan and delivered to a new chipyard site also in Menominee County.

Local officials expect the new plant and its companion chipyard to have a strong economic impact. "This is the second project of this magnitude in a little over a year and already it is having a phenomenal impact—half a billion dollars of new investment in the community," says Nancy Douglas, president of the Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce. She expects two to three years of high construction employment—400 to 500 construction workers—followed by the creation of 95 permanent pulp industry jobs and about 200 forest products and trucking jobs once the plant is completed.

"We developed the project at the Menominee site based on the logistic strength for delivering our product to the largest concentration of paper mills in the world. Building on a seaport allows us to export roughly 40 percent of the pulp to Europe at very competitive shipping rates," Kuber says.

The project also received some financing incentives: a $7.5 million job-creation state tax credit and a 12-year tax abatement on personal and real property from Menominee.

Christine Power