Cianbro mill redevelopment plan bringing smiles to South Brewer
6.04.2007 – Word of Saturday’s official announcement that Cianbro Corp. is planning to bring 500 or more manufacturing jobs to the former Eastern Fine Paper Mill spread quickly through the city and put smiles on the faces of many business owners in South Brewer.
Along with Cianbro’s plan to build and run a module manufacturing facility comes the return of well-paying jobs that were lost when the mill shut down. Those jobs mean paychecks that will allow workers who have been cutting corners to make ends meet to return to some of their normal routines, such as going out to eat, to the movies and to sporting events.
Tozier’s Market was among those hit hard when the mill closed for good in 2004, owner Mary-Jo Tozier said Saturday in a telephone interview.
She explained that the store lost about one-third of its business, which made things difficult.
“We’ve been waiting for something to come back in to boost the economy in the area,” she said. “It was a hardship on everyone.”
A South Main Street landmark, Tozier’s has been in business for nearly 21 years.
Just down the street, Ron’s Cafe had been open just one year when the mill went down.
“I’m going to say we lost about 20 percent [of our business] at the time,” owner Ron Way said.
The cafe managed to stay open, and Way literally jumped for joy when he heard of Cianbro’s plan.
“As a rule, I can’t jump, but I was right off the floor,” the 65-year-old Way said. “I almost cried this morning when I read it in the paper.”
Since the mill closed, several plans have been proposed for the facility, and each time he heard something was coming, Way said, he got excited and it gave him some hope. Then he would learn that plans had fallen through.
“I’ve been promised probably 20 [or] 30 times what’s going to go in down there,” he said. “This is much more realistic.”
The modules — prefabricated, self-standing building structures that will be constructed at the facility — will be outfitted with electrical wires and piping before being shipped out by barge to industrial clients and joined into larger structures elsewhere, Peter G. Vigue, Cianbro’s CEO and president, explained Saturday.
Although Vigue said it will take some time to prepare the site and obtain permits, he said the company plans to start manufacturing by April 2008.
Way said he expects to see business improve long before the facility is up and running again.
“The point is they’re going to have construction workers,” Way said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Not only will people be able to go out to eat again and purchase a few luxury items; they also will be able to buy the toys Mainers love.
“It gives people toy money, and basically we’re a toy store,” Rick Lozier, store manager at Van Raymond Outfitters, said Saturday.
The Brewer sporting goods store lost some business with the mill closures in Brewer and Old Town, but it’s difficult to tell how much, he said.
“Anytime you get good-paying jobs like that gone, it doesn’t help small business,” Lozier said.
The fact that Cianbro is a well-known Maine company that’s based in Pittsfield makes those who have heard the promises before feel more confident that this project will come to fruition.
“Cianbro’s a good company,” Lozier said.
The reaction from local businesses isn’t unexpected, and city, state and company officials who attended Saturday morning’s announcement of the project all said they were pleased that the ripple effect from the mill closure that was felt by so many businesses and residents regionwide would be addressed by the new development.
“We believe that Maine’s greatest asset is our people,” Vigue said, adding that “people are the very heart and soul of the economic vision” that Cianbro has for the Brewer project.
Standing in front of a sign inside Brewer City Hall that read, “It’s all about people,” Vigue said he’s hopeful that many of the young people who have left Maine for other opportunities will return home to be part of Cianbro’s project.
“They’re only looking for hope and they’re ready to be mentored,” Vigue said. “It’s time to let the world know that Maine is open for business.”
Gov. John Baldacci applauded the city’s efforts, as well as the determination of Vigue to retain the quality of life people love about Maine while moving the state’s economy forward for its people.
“We can do business from here around the world,” Baldacci said at Saturday’s press conference. “These are good jobs. These are great opportunities.”
In addition, the facility will help regain not only the jobs lost when the Brewer mill closed, but also the positions lost when the Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill closed last year in Old Town.
“It’s not just a great day for Brewer, it’s a great day for the entire region,” Brewer Mayor Michael Celli said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, issued a statement applauding Brewer and Cianbro “for working so hard together and with other government officials to make this crucial economic development project a reality. … This is great news for the state of Maine and shows that creativity and collaborative efforts can help restore our manufacturing sector.”
A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Monday, June 4, 2007.