Progress slows on proposal for plant at former International Paper site

In Corinth, the plunging economy and tight credit market have slowed progress on plans for a plastic

Categories: Business, Schenectady County

The plunging economy and tight credit market have slowed progress on plans for a plastic container manufacturing plant inside the former International Paper Co. mill on Pine Street.

But a spokesman for Philmet Capital Group LLC said the project is still alive.

“We are still diligently trying to work through the issues of credit and money,” said John D’Alessandro of the public relations firm Zone 5 in Albany.

“Unfortunately, over the past six or seven weeks it has become increasingly difficult to raise capital for a project of this magnitude,” he said.

Three years ago, the Manhattan-based Philmet Capital Group purchased the 380-acre mill site in the village and town of Corinth from International Paper. The group wanted to turn the property into the Corinth Mills Industrial Park.

At first, local officials and residents were wary. The Philmet proposal came a year after American Ref-Fuel of Montvale, N.J. tried hard to convince the community that the old mill property would be an excellent place for a large garbage-to-energy incineration plant, using as fuel solid waste transported by rail from the New York City area.

Many hundreds of residents opposed the idea and persuaded local officials to vote down the plan.

Philmet’s early plans indicated the possibility of an incineration component to create cheap energy for the park. This started a long, and sometimes contentious, negotiation process between Philmet lawyers and lawyers for the village of Corinth.

The end product was a complicated set of agreements that included no garbage or waste incineration at the site and no importing of garbage or other wastes.

Plans for the plastic container plant were announced by Philmet about a year ago. Basic conceptual plans were presented to the village Planning Board in June.

Two phases

The project features at least two phases, including a 50 megawatt wood- or coal-burning power plant and the construction of the plastic container manufacturing facility inside old Building No. 11 at the mill site.

Company representatives said the plastics plant would start with two production lines and expand based on demand. Only a portion of the huge, 450,000-square-foot Building No. 11 would be used at first.

The pastics plant would basically be a “building within a building” so that government-required cleanliness standards for the plastic containers can be maintained, according to Philmet officials.

Since this summer, not much new information has been released to village officials, according to Mayor Bradley Winslow.

“The signs are apparent to me that things are not favorable to Philmet developing anything in the near future,” he said. “I heard the project before the planning board is on hold.”

D’Alessandro said Philmet representatives met with the planning board in November. The board gave the developers 120 days to move forward with more detailed plans for the manufacturing plant.

The developers will provide the planning board with a status report in February. If there are still no detailed plans then, the board would rule the application inactive at its meeting in March, according to D’Alessandro.

When asked if he thought Philmet would have more details ready for the February meeting, he answered “it’s hard to say now.”

“They are trying to develop more capital for this project,” D’Alessandro said. “Our goal is to meet the deadlines.”

A cost estimate for the power plant and manufacturing facility has not been developed. But he said the project would cost tens of millions of dollars.

Landfill issue

Another problem with the project and site is the “issue of maintaining the on-site landfills,” D’Alessandro said.

One of the old IP landfills is closed but the other is relatively new, with only one cell used. He said the landfills have a high maintenance cost “but little chance to generate revenue.”

The former IP mill closed its doors in 2002, after producing paper for more than 100 years. It was the village and town’s major employer, paying good wages and being a stable, steady place to work. Sons followed their fathers and grandfathers in taking lifelong jobs at the paper mill.

When paper machine No. 11 came on line in 1959, it was the largest such papermaker in the world. It was dwarfed over the next 50 years by newer, larger, more efficient paper machines at other paper plants.

Nearly 300 workers lost their jobs when the mill closed in 2002. When the mill was fully operative, nearly 1,000 people had worked there.

The Hudson River Mill celebrated its 100th year as an International Paper mill in 1998. In the early 20th century, it was the largest paper mill operated by IP and was the company’s headquarters. The mill even went back beyond IP ownership to 1869, when it was the Hudson River Pulp and paper Co., according to IP officials.

The Hudson River Mill is where IP started making paper using wood instead of fabric and rags, as was the practice in the late 19th century, IP officials said.

Village and town officials have been very eager to locate another manufacturing facility at the old mill site to provide jobs and economic stability to the community.

Potential jobs

Philmet has indicated that the plastics manufacturing plant would employ between 70 and 130 people, depending on the number of production lines in operation.

Mayor Winslow said there is still some activity at the property. Contractors for International Paper continue to enter the site to maintain a waste treatment facility as part of earlier agreement with the state.

“I certainly hope Philmet can move forward with the project,” Winslow said. “I don’t see any downside to it.”

He said the power plant being proposed meets all the village’s environmental criteria established over the past two years.

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