Gorham Paper and Tissue general manager Willis Blevins, left, and Dick Arnold, president of GPT and Old Town Fiber and Fuel, shook hands on Thursday morning, Oct. 4, after the brand-new no. 6 ABK Italia tissue machine had produced rolls of white toweling through the night.
Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
October 10, 2012GORHAM — After numerous adjustments were made, the newly installed ABK Italia no. 6 tissue machine fabricated good white toweling for the first time at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, in the new custom-built three-story addition at the Gorham Paper and Tissue (GPT) mill.
While many other Americans were watching the Obama-Romney debates on television, papermakers at Cascades were successfully running the mill's new machine, shipped from Europe.
"We've started with toweling but we'll switch to making tissue," explained general mill manager Willis Blevins, who was both tired and exuberant at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning. He and Leo Carrier, manager of #6 tissue machine, pulled a swatch of strong but flexible toweling off a full roll after it was turned up, handing it to this reporter.
The mood was upbeat, and even the most reticent papermaker was smiling.
Dick Arnold, president of GPT and Old Town Fuel & Fiber, both Lynn Tilton companies in the Patriarch Partners portfolio, shook Blevins hand. The $30-million-plus state-of-the-art tissue machine is a joint venture under the name White Mountain Tissue. Production is expected to reach 36,000 tons a year of premium virgin parent rolls of bathroom tissue, towel, and napkins, designed to serve the needs of independent and integrated tissue converters. In early 2013, installation of a rewinder will also allow the mill to supply multi-ply grades.
Blevins praised all the workers who had patiently tweaked the machine over the last two weeks. Some gathered in the computer room where numerous flat screens allowed these knowledgeable 21st-century workers to know exactly what was happening in the production process. Outside that room, bags and boxes of Dunkin' Donuts breakfast goodies were laid out on a table.
Subcontractors continued to work around the edges of the enormous space, hooking up ductwork and finishing projects.
Demolishing an old structure, constructing a new one, and installing the no. 6 machine has been a fast-track project. The 75-ton Yankee dryer was lowered into place on May 17.
On June 30, 2011, Lynn Tilton participated in a paint party to mark a new era at the venerable mill that drew both Governor John Lynch and U. S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen to the banks of the Androscoggin River.
Fraser Paper shuttered the mill on Oct. 13, 2010, putting nearly all of its 240 workers out of work.
Natural gas from the PNGTS was brought across the River to the paper mill later that summer at a cost of about $5.4 million, cutting costs of mill operations by more than $1 million a month. Three other paper machines are also operational, although sometimes one is idle if orders do not justify its running.
Payroll now is regularly at the 210 mark with plans to add more.
If the sales of tissue products fabricated on the no. 6 machine are strong, one or two more similar machines could be purchased and installed.