This week, plans were unveiled for a $19 million machine upgrade that allows the PM the flexibility to produce manila and ivory facing paperboard. The PM now makes only grey backing paperboard.
It's unclear when the upgrades will be completed at the mill. Last week, the US Census Bureau reported that privately-owned housing starts increased 13.1% to 1.072 million units, which is a projected annual total. The 1.072 million is 26.4% higher than the April 2013 figure.
By producing manila/ivory paperboard, USG's Oakfield PM will need some recovered paper in print grades to go along with its main material of old corrugated containers, which it consumes at about 250 tons/day, contacts said.
The Oakfield project includes the PM upgrades and "utility improvements ensuring the future of the paper mill and retaining 98 jobs in addition to the 12 new positions it will create," the state of New York said in a release.
The Oakfield facility once made USG's Sheetrock brand wallboard but that operation closed in 2001. The plant now makes the paper for the "back side" of wallboard. The front side or facing is made with white paper along with OCC on the back side, according to the release.
"The Oakfield facility was at a real risk of closure as other USG owned plants have the capability to produce both types of paper," the state's release said.
The state of New York said USG qualified for up to $665,000 in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits, a $400,000 grant, and $180,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). USG also is applying for a grant of up to $250,000 from National Grid to assist with electrical infrastructure upgrades.
The funds equal about 8% of the project cost.
USG converted a corrugating medium machine at the former Menasha mill in Otsego, MI, into a fast running 162-in paperboard PM for wallboard. That PM started up in the spring of 2008. That was the last large project in the US gypsum facing paperboard market, where capacity this year is expected to be 1.477 million tons/yr, according to the American Forest & Paper Association's recent annual capacity survey.
The Oakfield project is not expected to add capacity on the PM.
Gypsum facing paperboard capacity peaked at 1.9 million tons/yr in 2004 before the US housing crisis. Since, USG shut facing board machines in Jacksonville, FL, Gypsum, OH, Clark, NY, and South Gate, CA.
Also, Federal Gypsum shut a board PM in Delair, NJ, in 2008 and Georgia-Pacific (G-P) permanently shut one in Pryor, OK, last year. G-P also indefinitely idled a facing paperboard PM in Thorold, ON, in January this year.