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What the future holds for Domtar Corp’s mill in Port Huron?

What the future holds for Domtar Corp's mill in Port Huron?

A Domtar Corp paper mill that has been at the same address for more than 130 years in Port Huron, Michigan, is expected to become another paper mill, a data center or even be demolished.

Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County CEO Dan Casey said he thinks another paper company acquiring the Domtar Corp. mill. at 1700 Washington Ave. would make more sense for the location. “It’s probably the most likely thing to happen besides demolition,” Casey presumed.

He said the EDA took some phone calls on the property a few months ago but it’s been quiet since and he doesn’t know if anyone is planning to buy or trade for the property.

Because it struggled to compete with the competition, the plant was scheduled to close in August 2020, eliminating about 200 jobs in Port Huron.

Kathy Wholley, Domtar Corp. public affairs and communications senior director, said in an email that the Port Huron plant completed shipments to customers in late June and the facility is no longer operational.

According to Wholley, Domtar’s intention is to sell the property, as well as some equipment and machinery that were not sent to other facilities. “They are looking for options and potential partners,” said Wholley. The mill continues to run the wastewater treatment on site and employees are performing post-closure maintenance, she said.

There is still a small group of employees still working onsite, including 11 union-represented employees, 11 salaried employees in areas like human resources, payroll and engineering, and one contracted security guard.

According to Casey, the building’s equipment is embedded in the foundation and would not be easy to remove, which can make it difficult to use the building for another purpose. The building is also over 100 years old and someone would have to adjust the manufacturing space to the code.

The paper mill started as Michigan Suplhite Fibre Co. in 1888 and after multiple changes over the years was sold to to E.B Eddy Forrest Products Ltd. in 1987 and finally to Canadian Domtar in 1998.

The company has manufactured different types of paper over the years, including tissue paper, bread wrapping paper, glossy finished paper and machine-finished paper. Since 1950 the factory has specialized in lightweight carbon paper and machine enameled wrapping.

On the factory’s future, Port Huron City Manager James Freed said he would like to see a “job creation facility there” and something that uses the license to pump water from the St. Clair River, an attractive feature of the site.

Casey said the plant could be demolished and the property sold, but it would be expensive to demolish the site. It could also potentially be a data center in the future, like many other large buildings in the county, as autonomous vehicles continue to evolve and more space is needed to store data, he said. “I think it’s a potential, it’s possible,” Casey said.

Times Herald
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