West Linn Paper Mill to reopen as Willamette Falls Paper Company
June 26, 2019 – The idled paper mill and assets in West Linn, Oregon have been purchased by the newly formed Willamette Falls Paper Company, a subsidiary of Columbia Ventures Corporation in Vancouver, Washington.
The company has entered into a five-year lease with renewal options for the related real estate and buildings, and plans a startup of at least one paper machine in the near future.
The new operation owns three paper machines, capable of making coated and uncoated grades with the potential capacity of 260,000 tons. Willamette Falls Paper Company will return the mill to being the only coated freesheet producer on the West Coast. Initially, the mill will employ about 85 people, which will increase as they bring up one or two of the remaining paper machines.
While the mill’s initial focus will be on traditional paper products, the long-term focus on sustainable papermaking will be its key to success. Willamette Falls Paper looks to integrate the use of non-traditional fibre sources such as pulp from wheat straw, agricultural waste and the new farm crop of hemp into the process.
In addition to making paper from sustainable fibre, the mill also plans to work with local waste management companies to help find solutions to improve the recycling rate in the region. Recent export restrictions on paper waste have made paper disposal a problem. The mill looks to address the need for better recycling options.
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"We look forward to working with former customers to produce the quality products that they need," says Brian Konen, president of Willamette Falls Paper Company. "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."
Ken Peterson, CEO of Columbia Ventures Corporation says, "I am very optimistic because we were able to quickly develop a business plan to justify acquiring and reopening the paper mill. I am thankful to the various parties, including Portland General Electric, for working quickly and cooperatively to make it happen. The mill’s success means a reliable source for U.S. paper production to displace foreign paper imports. 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."
Columbia Ventures Corporation is a holding company and the majority owner of Northwest Straw Pulp (the parent company of Columbia Pulp), which is in the final stages of constructing a first-of-its-kind pulp mill near Starbuck, Washington, to manufacture high-quality pulp fibre from wheat straw. At full production, it expects to annually produce 140,000 tons of pulp that will be able to directly substitute for hardwood pulp in terms of specifications and quality.
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