MANISTIQUE - With his purchase of the Manistique paper mill finalized, Stanley Zellar of Gulliver's Zellar Excavating said he hopes to start a new era for one of the city's most important businesses.
Zellar began negotiations with mBank to purchase the mill shortly after its closure was announced in March this year.
"We started talking about it since it went down," Zellar said.
The purchase was finalized in an Oct. 30 foreclosure auction. He declined comment on the price he paid for the mill.
Zellar has been no stranger to purchasing well-known Manistique buildings in the recent past. Earlier this year, he and his family purchased Camp Manistique, which had been vacant since a state prison that was operating there closed in 2007.
Though Zellar's reasons for buying Camp Manistique were unrelated to its former function, he intends to continue using the mill for paper production if possible.
His current goal is to have the paper mill open and operational by late winter/early spring.
Efforts to re-open the mill are ongoing. It will continue to be owned by Zellar, who is in talks to lease it out to a group of individuals based near Menominee.
"We're trying to get it up and running, really," he said.
Though former mill owners FutureMark used the mill to produce rolls of paper, Zellar said he and the people he hopes to lease it to would focus on producing different paper products.
"It'll be...paper bags and cardboard boxes," he said.
Zellar estimated that about 50 to 100 jobs would be created by the mill's re-opening. Though this is less than the 147 workers employed by the mill before it closed, it is expected that at least some of the people who worked at the mill before its closure would be hired back if and when it re-opens.
"That's what the idea is," Zellar said.
Re-opening the mill is particularly important to Zellar due to its presence in his life since his younger days.
"I used to haul wood in there with a '58 Chevy," he said.
Alan Barr, executive director of the Schoolcraft County Economic Development Corporation, said the community has shared Zellar's enthusiasm for the possibility of the mill being re-opened.
"They're thankful that somebody - especially local people - have stepped up and...purchased the property," he said.
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