PORT EDWARDS, Wis. (WSAU) - The former paper mill in Port Edwards will attract new businesses, and the property’s new owner is betting on it. The Central Wisconsin Applied Research and Business Park property has a papermaking history with NEPCO, Georgia Pacific, and most recently Domtar, but has been idle for five years. Most of the property has been bought by DMI Acquisitions LLC based in Ohio.
Officials from DMI, planners Vandewalle and Associates, and the Village of Port Edwards outlined their redevelopment plans for the 192 acre site Wednesday.
DMI’s Chief Operating Officer is Joseph Moore, who says they plan to retain an active interest in the campus and seek companies to lease existing and new developments. Moore says when they began walking around the idle industrial site, he could feel the pain the community felt when the mill closed. “As we began putting the redevelopment plan together, it’s become more of a vision for us of healing a community, and if we do that, everything else will come behind that. That’s really our vision here.”
Moore says they’ve been working to make much of the property ready for reuse. “Most all of the assets here are between 80 and 100 percent done, that are not the mill site, and then the mill site will be done later next year. We’re in the active process of leasing the facilities that are ready for occupancy, and those are most of the buildings, exclusive of the mill site and the Admin-R and D building.”
Ready to use facilities include a 280-thousand square foot climate controlled warehouse, a 13-thousand square foot data center building, an 29-thousand square foot multipurpose building, and a tank farm. Rail and highway access, process water, fiber optic communication lines, and adequate power are all ready to go.
Village Administrator Joe Terry says Port Edwards began immediately after the mill closed to work on possible redevelopment, and have done what they can to help DMI move forward. “We’ve been meeting with them on a regular basis, trying to make sure we’re communicating with them so that any services or infrastructure needs that they have (are addressed.) We want to make sure that as a community, we’re not holding this type of business up.”
When Domtar closed in 2008, over 500 jobs were lost. Planner Scott Harrington from Vandewalle & Associates believes the redeveloped site has the potential to bring in over 816 jobs depending on the new businesses attracted and development of unused land on the south side of the property.
To get those new jobs, it takes new business. Joseph Moore says they already have some interest in the property. “We are actively talking with many companies that have an interest, and most of those being biomass or supported by the biomass in this area, and then obviously logistics, warehousing and transportation is very, very important as well.”
DMI is also willing to donate the research and development facilities to the right party. Moore believes activities in that laboratory would have a positive impact on business in the park and surrounding area.
Nearly half of the mill building will be torn down, and the landmark NEPCO chimney will also come down because it is in disrepair. Demolition could start on south side of the mill building the week of January 6th, and the new front of the building facing south could be ready in a year.
Businesses interested in the park’s assets can contact Joseph Moore through DMI’s Columbus, Ohio office at 614-252-1811 .