Escanaba Mill: More than 100 Years of Papermaking

Established in 1891, Escanaba Mill has evolved from a pulp producer to a major newsprint and coated printing paper manufacturer. It all started with a group of pioneers who saw potential in the power of the dams in the Escanaba River. Today, employing 830 people, the mill is a community cornerstone, producing 730,000 tons of paper annually while maintaining a strong commitment to sustainability and community support.

The Escanaba Dams Power a New Paper Mill

The story of Escanaba Mill begins in 1891 when the Escanaba Electric Street Railway Company started operating. The company consolidated with Escanaba Power Company under the name of Escanaba Power and Traction Company in 1909. Three years later in 1911, the Escanaba Pulp and Paper Company was built to use surplus electricity generated by the Escanaba Power and Traction Company’s hydroelectric plant. The mill's main purpose was to help investors attract new customers for the hydroelectric capacity created by dams on the Escanaba River.

From Pulpwood to Newsprint

The mill went into production on July 5, 1912, producing an average of 20 tons of pulp per day for shipment to paper mills in the Upper Peninsula (U.P) and northern Wisconsin. It employed about 40 people and required 7000 cords of spruce and balsam pulpwood annually. The transformation from pulp to paper production was officially implemented on January 17, 1920, when the mill's paper machine PM1 officially began producing newsprint. Just a few months later, PM2 was put into operation. At that time, approximately 100 people operated these machines, producing about 300 tons of newsprint daily.

The Era of Coated Printing Paper

In the 1940s, significant changes took place at Escanaba Mill. In 1947, the company expanded PM1 by installing two coaters, super calenders, and rewinders. These upgrades enabled the production of coated printing paper, marking the transition from newsprint manufacturing. The following decades saw extensive expansion projects. In 1972, PM3, a pulp mill, and turbine generators number 7 and 8 were installed, laying the foundation for further growth. In 1982, the installation of PM4 was the last of the three to come on line. The machine was soon christened “The Spirit of Escanaba”, the winning title in an employee contest. A pulp mill, turbine generator number 9, and boiler number 11 were also introduced in the 1980s.

Today’s Production

Escanaba Mill was acquired by Billerud AB in 2022. Today, it produces graphic papers used in commercial printing, media and marketing applications, including magazines, catalogs, books, direct mail, corporate collateral and specialty papers used in label and converting applications. The mill encompasses 2,000 acres and has a kraft pulp mill, a refiner mechanical pulp mill, three paper machines, a pulp dryer, three off-machine blade coaters, six supercalenders and six winders. The Escanaba Mill is fully integrated, producing its own wood chips, pulp, and power.

Community Commitment

Today, Escanaba Mill employs approximately 830 people and produces 730,000 tons of paper annually. It has become an essential part of the community, contributing to the economic and social well-being of the region, recently including a financial contribution of $129,000 to various community initiatives in 2022.