Contact: Ann Duginske
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Former paper mill site now under development for new uses
NEW NORTH – When the New Page Niagara Mill site closed in 2008, more than 300 jobs were eliminated and the greater Niagara community morale was shaken. But the repurposing of that site is now breathing new life into the community.
“The closure and sale of the New Page Niagara Mill site was definitely a challenge that needed to be addressed,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North, Inc. “Collaborative, local efforts have ensured that opportunity for new development can and is happening.”
Led by City of Niagara Mayor George Bousley, the focus has been on marketing the mill site to prospects, including re-use options for different markets.
“The New Page Niagara Mill was a community landmark,” says Bousley. “A large number of families in our area made their living from that mill. Beyond the economic impact, the psychological impact on our residents was just as strong. Through the work of the redevelopment team, I now feel like we’ve turned the corner.”
According to Bousley, a significant economic impact of the New Page Niagara Mill closing was the 30-percent loss to the Niagara water department’s annual revenue, costs ultimately passed along to other customers through rate increases. A large portion of those revenues has been recaptured through the addition of Northbrook to the community, he says.
The mill was purchased in 2011 by Niagara Worldwide, and representatives of the development firm have been working with the Upper Menominee River Alliance (UMRA) on redevelopment efforts. At the time of purchase, there were nearly 120 buildings on site with a million square feet of production space. Older buildings are being cleared to make room for an open footprint to aid in development.
Niagara Worldwide has targeted five specific tenant sectors: energy generation, manufacturing, warehousing, logistics and data centers. Development is anticipated during mid-2013. Niagara already has been successful in attracting a buyer, Northbrook Energy, for the on-site hydroelectric facility.
“The key to redevelopment is the on-site facilities and built-out infrastructure,” says Murphy. “Ultimately, we know that the site won’t have anything to do with the paper industry. In fact, it’s likely this will become a multi-use site with a number of different businesses engaged in different industries.”
One asset of the site that has made it particularly attractive to industry is adjacency to Northbrook’s 9MW, renewable hydroelectric facility that is interconnected and currently in operation. New tenants have the potential to contract for on-site, green power at a much lower rate than can be offered by a regulated utility.
“The City of Niagara has made it easy for us to get started in business,” says Greg Linsmeyer, president of Niagara Fabrication, which employs roughly 30 people in two buildings left standing on the former mill site. “We like the fact that it’s centrally located on the border of Wisconsin and Michigan. We have a Class A road running right into our facility, along with rail service. It’s everything you could want for a factory.”
Another key to redevelopment, according to Murphy, is infrastructure that includes water supply, water treatment and four miles of deactivated rail – all of which have been attractive to potential tenants. Murphy adds that current redevelopment efforts have resulted in a significant amount of interest, particularly in an empty warehouse with cold storage and a separate entrance.
“The New Page Niagara Mill collaboration is a prime example of how we approach repurposing major plant closings in the New North,” says Murphy. “We qualify and quantify the value of the redevelopment site and collaborate with a local team to get to market. Our collaborative efforts at this site and elsewhere really keep our region moving forward.”
UMRA has been working to repurpose the mill site with an alliance comprised of representatives from the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, the City of Niagara, Florence County, Dickinson (Mich.) County, state legislators, workforce development and commerce officials, New North Inc. and the UW-Extension.
New North, Inc. is a regional collaboration effort focused on promoting regional cooperation and economic development in an 18-county region in Northeast Wisconsin. The 18 counties included in the New North are Outagamie, Winnebago, Calumet, Waupaca, Brown, Shawano, Oconto, Marinette, Door, Kewaunee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Marquette, Florence, Menominee, and Waushara. To find out more information about New North, Inc., please visit our website at http://www.thenewnorth.com.