Finance group gets ready to decide on crucial loan for mill project

7:32 PM, Oct 16, 2013   |    comments
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MILLINOCKET, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Town leaders say they are planning to be in attendance on Thursday for a meeting that stands to shape the future of the economy in Millinocket.

The Finance Authority of Maine or FAME is set to decide whether to award Cate Street Capital a $25 million loan to fund the company's Thermogen project. Thermogen is a proposed plan from Cate Street to built a wood pellet plant on the site of the old Millinocket paper mill, which has been closed since 2008.  

Officials with Cate Street say if built the plant could employ up to 36 people. The company has been working on the project for years but without the loan from FAME its not likely to happen in Millinocket.

Just week's ago FAME's board of directors decided to table Cate Street's application for the loan after staff at the organization recommended it be denied.

The debate in this process centers around the product that the new plant would make: torrefied wood, which is an energy rich pellet similar to biomass. Officials with Cate Street say they see the pellets as a future power product in the energy industry since it can be used as a cleaner substitute for coal.

Yet upon review of Cate Street's application for the loan, staff at FAME say they were not convinced that the market demand for torrefied wood is there. Their concern is if the project fails state taxpayer dollars would have to be used to pay back the loan.

On Wednesday, leaders in Millinocket said they would continue to support Thermogen --- saying the jobs it could create would make a big difference for the region.

"What the mill needs in terms of development and activity is that it's a starting off point for trying to market the community," said town manager Peggy Daigle, "trying to get younger people living back in town..start raising families...building up homes or fixing old homes."

Officials with Cate Street have said they would continue efforts to get the loan from FAME and provide all documentation that its directors asked for weeks ago. Thursday's meeting is set to start at 9 a.m. at the FAME's headquarters in Augusta.


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