Revitalization group to repurpose old Maine paper mill as bio-industrial park

On January 11, 2017, the rural revitalization group Our Katahdin, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in the Katahdin region of Maine, purchased the former Great Northern Paper assets in Millinocket. The purchase includes all property, designations, and liabilities held by GNP West, GNP Holdings II, and the New England Center for Business Development for the nominal price of $1.

Organizers involved with the redevelopment of the acreage say they are confident that they can bring jobs back to an area hard-hit by shuttered paper mills.

Our Katahdin, a local nonprofit dedicated to community and economic development in the Millinocket area, will now oversee the redevelopment of the former GNP mill and its 1,400 acres. Michael Madore, chairman of the Millinocket Town Council, says the acquisition marks a turning point for the community.

By Our Kathadin partnering with the town of Millinocket to acquire the mill site, gives us finally control over our own ability to move forward,” Madore says. “We’re not depending on any given company, any conglomerate, any financial group or anything else. We now have an active part in taking our own financial security into our own hands and move it forward as we envision it to go.

Holdings include the 1,400 acre former mill site, land adjacent to the Millinocket Municipal airport, a 157 acre parcel of land at Ferguson Pond and several additional parcels in Millinocket. The acquisition includes a Regional EB -5 Center, which is a valuable federal designation that enables foreign investors to invest in projects in the United States.

The purchase comes with approximately $1.4 million in tax liability to the IRS and $155,126 in back real estate taxes, as well as additional back taxes on business equipment owed to the Town of Millinocket.

The Town of Millinocket has filed liens against GNP West Inc. and GNP Holdings II Inc., with the FY15 tax lien of $66,325 set to mature on January 15,, 2017. The town council has voted at their regular meeting on January 12, 2017, to file a six-month waiver on foreclosure in the interest of defining the terms of continued collaboration. The Town of Millinocket and Our Katahdin will continue to engage on the remaining tax liabilities. Had the town chosen to foreclose on the property, it would have fractured the assets and embroiled the town in legal processes that would continue to delay economic redevelopment.

According to Mike Madore, Chairman of the Millinocket Town Council, “The best scenario for the citizens of Millinocket is to get the mill site back into service as an industrial park, with the EB -5 designation and environmental agreements intact. A collaboration between the town and Our Katahdin gives us the capacity to begin the hard work of transforming the mill site into a world-class industrial park. This is about using the incredible assets we have in the area to bring jobs and investment to the town.

Together, Our Katahdin and the Town of Millinocket have expanded capacity to marshal grants, investment, incentives and most importantly, to engage the local community in the process of redevelopment. Our Katahdin plans to utilize their community investment arm, Our Katahdin Investments which is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to provide opportunities for citizens to invest in the redevelopment of the mill site.

We know this purchase comes with enormous responsibility. We can’t promise instant results, but we can guarantee our best effort to help transform this idle industrial site into a productive, innovative bio-industrial park that leverages the comparative advantages of our region. This site is our heritage. We strongly believe in its future,” said Sean Dewitt, President of Our Katahdin.

Discussions about the mill site began between the GNP entities and Our Katahdin began in the summer of 2016.

We are grateful that Our Katahdin was able to acquire the mill site and all other assets as a single unit. It was better for all parties that the purchase was finalized with the real estate, industrial assets and critical federal and state designations intact,” noted Dewitt.

See Our Katahdin website.

See (and listen to) article by A. J. Higgins in Maine Public.

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