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Escanaba mill marks 100 years of making paper

THE MILL IN ESCANABA, now owned by Verso Corp., has been making paper for 100 years. (Jordan Beck/Daily Press photo)

ESCANABA — The Verso Corp.’s Escanaba Mill celebrated a milestone Friday — a full century of making paper.

The mill was in use well before paper production began there, according to a Verso news release.

“The Escanaba Mill began operating in 1891 as the Escanaba Electric Street Railway Company before the Escanaba Paper Company was organized,” Verso Operations Group Vice President Mike Laverdiere stated in the news release.

The mill primarily was built to help investors attract new customers for the hydroelectric generation capacity created by dams on the Escanaba River. Pulp production began at the mill on July 5, 1912.

The mill’s No. 1 paper machine officially started producing newsprint on Jan. 17, 1920, with the No. 2 paper machine beginning operations that June. About 100 people worked on the machines, producing roughly 300 tons of newsprint a day at the mill.

The paper mill in Escanaba is shown circa 1920 in a historical photo provided by Verso Corporation. As of Friday, the mill has been making paper for exactly 100 years. (Courtesy photo)

The Mead Corporation bought the mill in 1942, and the Escanaba Paper Company became a Mead subsidiary. Five years later, the company expanded the No. 1 paper machine system with the installation of two coaters, supercalenders and rewinders, allowing the mill to make coated printing papers. The mill discontinued newsprint production after 36 years.

Mead continued to expand the mill over the next four decades, and was involved in several multimillion-dollar expansion projects there. Among these projects were the installation of the No. 3 paper machine, kraft pulp mill, No. 7 and No. 8 turbine generators and No. 9 bark power boiler in 1972 and the installation of the No. 4 paper machine, pulp mill, No. 9 turbine generator and No. 11 power boiler in 1980.

“The mill’s 100-year history of making investments to enhance, expand and evolve its product portfolio, paired with hardworking, committed people, has contributed to its longevity and success,” Laverdiere said.

Today, the mill employs roughly 890 people and is capable of producing about 730,000 tons of paper per year. It makes graphic and specialty paper used in products such as magazines, books, direct mail and labels.

Laverdiere said he appreciates the role Verso employees in the Escanaba area played in the mill’s century-long history of paper production.

“I want to thank all of our Escanaba team members for their dedication to the mill, our customers and our communities. Here’s to another 100 years,” he said.

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