First paper rolls off the press at reopened mill

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Willamette Falls Paper Company plans to focus on "sustainable paper-making"

west linn paper mill

Willamette Falls Paper Company just opened at the site of the former West Linn paper mill, August 15, 2019 (KOIN)

WEST LINN, Ore. (KOIN) — Paper-making is returning to West Linn after an almost two-year hiatus.

The first paper rolled off the press Friday morning, at the site of the former West Linn mill. It has reopened as Willamette Falls Paper Company, a branch of the Vancouver-based Columbia Ventures Corporation.

The West Linn Tidings reported earlier this summer that the company bought the paper machines belonging to the West Linn Paper Company, which closed in late 2017 after 128 years in business. At the time it closed, West Linn Paper Company had about 250 employees, but in its heyday some 1,600 people worked at the mill.

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The paper mill in West Linn has been an iconic feature of the Willamette riverfront since the late 1800s.

Chief Operating Officer Brian Konen was one of those employees. Now, he will lead the new company as president.

Konen described it as “an honor” to be back working at such an iconic location. “It’s amazing the impact this has had on the community.”

The mill’s initial focus will be traditional paper products, but the long-term goal is sustainable paper-making, according to Columbia Ventures CEO Ken Peterson. Willamette Falls Paper is interested in using non-traditional fiber sources like hemp, agricultural waste and pulp from wheat straw.

A view of the Willamette Falls paper mill in West Linn, August 15, 2019 (KOIN)

“Another one of the investments of Columbia Ventures is a plant in Eastern Washington that is just about to start as well and it makes pulp that is the equivalent of hardwood pulp, but from wheat straw,” Peterson said. “Every year the wheat straw is grown and prior to our operation taking it and turning it into pulp it was being burned in the fields out in the Palouse in Eastern Washington. “

Right now, the mill employs about 100 people and is using just one paper machine. They expect to hire more people as they restart at least one of the other machines. Willamette Falls Paper Company is leasing the property from Portland General Electric.

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