State legislature passes funding to upgrade Billerud mill in Delta County

The money will go towards expanding the Delta County mill, adding jobs in the process.
Billerud Paper Mill
Billerud Paper Mill(WLUC)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 9:42 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - A major investment in Upper Michigan manufacturing is nearly across the finish line.

The state House and Senate both passed a supplemental spending bill Thursday night that includes $200 million for improvements at Billerud in Wells Township. The measure now heads to Gov. Whitmer’s desk for her signature.

The paper mill is planning $1 billion in upgrades.

“This is a monumental victory for the Upper Peninsula,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, in a statement. “Due to this investment, at least 1,240 jobs will be retained at the Escanaba facility. Further, much-needed machine and facility upgrades are now on the horizon. This will lead to a flurry of job opportunities, and a more vigorous U.P. The mill was recently facing closure, however this investment will keep the mill running, and set it up for generations to come. This investment is so vital it will greatly benefit the entire state, not just the Upper Peninsula. We were able to change the course of an ever-important business in a declining market, ensuring it will now enter a growing market in the North American segment. It’s expected that some of the most advanced technology and sustainability will be introduced to the U.P., and frankly to the U.S. with this investment. This is the state fulfilling its obligation to the paper, cardboard and timber industries, and to the hard-working folks in the U.P.”

The mill just outside of Escanaba has been making paper since 1911. It’s one of the top employers in Delta County and has an estimated $360 million annual economic impact on the area. Included in Thursday’s spending bill, Senate Bill 7, $200 million will be used to fund and facilitate the major investment.

“At a time when inflation is high and the costs of essentials for Michiganders and Yoopers alike has become such a burden, I’m extremely proud to announce this transformational, generational investment that will reaffirm our timber industry,” said Rep. David Prestin, R-Cedar RIver, in a statement. “Located in my district, Billerud employs thousands of hard-working Yoopers. Not only will over 1,200 jobs be retained, but the Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates the investment will lead to nearly 2,000 employment opportunities for construction workers given the need for new buildings, renovations, infrastructure improvements and electrical upgrades. These jobs will pay an average of over $43 an hour, which is much higher than the target livable wages in surrounding communities. Local units of government already work well with the company. The Upper Peninsula will continue to be on the cutting edge of innovation, sustainability, and viability.”

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said the funding will help upgrade the aging infrastructure for the paper mill, making it more efficient in the process.

“The project, the state investment in it would primarily be used for the infrastructure needs,” Sen. McBroom said. “There is rail, electrical, bridges, things like that that are outdated and inefficient to the renovations of this place.”