LP Houlton breaks ground on project to convert mill to make exterior wood siding
NEW LIMERICK, Maine — LP Houlton has broken ground on its new conversion project, as the facility prepares to shift production from making interior engineered wood products to manufacturing new exterior wood siding for houses.
Louisiana Pacific, the company that runs LP Houlton, had announced in February that it was investing $150 million into the mill, a move which drew praise from Gov. Janet Mills, believing it could help bolster the economy of Aroostook County. The mill is one of the largest employers in the greater Houlton area, employing approximately 160 people.
LP Houlton did not hold an official groundbreaking ceremony, citing concerns about the pandemic, but said it hoped to invite media and government officials to the mill in early 2022, when the mill is expected to be fully converted to producing siding.
“Initial work will include demolition and construction at various places around the property,” Louisiana Pacific spokesperson Breeanna Straessle said. “We’ve mobilized many contractors to help, including several local teams.”
The mill has obtained its building permit from the town of New Limerick.
The mill currently manufactures oriented strand board and laminated strand lumber, which are used in the interior of home construction. These products are expected to be phased out gradually during the conversion project, with production of oriented strand board to cease in the fall and laminated strand lumber ceasing shortly afterward.
Employees will still come to work during the conversion process, in order to receive training on how to make the new LP wood siding products, known as SmartSide.
In addition, LP Houlton also announced that it will give $500 bonuses to its employees, with another $2,000 bonus scheduled six months from now. LP said the bonuses were to express gratitude to the employees for working throughout the pandemic.
“I’m proud to say that when we were deemed essential, every employee came into work and continued to work throughout the pandemic. We followed the guidelines, and it worked. We did not have any active transmission of COVID-19 inside the mill,” LP Houlton plant manager Nathan Whitney said. “It truly is a testament to the work ethic here in The County.”