Godfrey Forest Products Announces New OSB Mill For Maine

By Rich Donnell

    Godfrey Forest Products, with multi-investor backing, has announced plans to build an 800MMSF annual production capacity brownfield oriented strandboard (OSB) plant in Jay, Maine, at the site of a paper mill known as the Androscoggin Mill, which closed in 2023. The company, led by John Godfrey, renown for his development of OSB plants since the early 1980s, hopes to gain necessary permitting within a year and begin construction thereafter. Jay is approximately 65 miles due north of Portland, Maine.
    The project announcement was held March 8 at the Androscoggin Mill, with Governor Janet Mills leading off. “I still remember how I felt in April 2020 upon hearing of the digester explosion, Mills said. “I was concerned of course about the safety of the employees, but also for the future of the mill and this community.”
She said it’s been a priority to bring business back into the community since the mill’s closing, and referred to the Godfrey OSB announcement as “one significant project” for this property, and cited Godfrey’s long and successful history with OSB project development. She said the mill would provide 125 jobs in addition to construction jobs.
State Senator Lisa Keim (R-Oxford) recalled how generations of family and friends had worked at the mill. “Seeing the paper mill go silent hit us all very hard,” she said. “The announcement today brings back hope and opportunity. Jay is going to be a mill town once again. It’s a revitalization.”
Godfrey said at age 75 he might have been inclined to retire, “but it’s so much fun building OSB mills, why not one more round?”
Born in Bangor, Maine, Godfrey said when heard of the problems at the paper mill and ultimate closure, he saw an opportunity to redirect some of the unused pine pulpwood tonnage into a facility with ready-made infrastructure such as utilities, railroad tracks, excellent Northeast markets for wood products, and he emphasized that labor with manufacturing experience was plentiful in the area.
Godfrey, speaking from where he expected the finishing line will be located, estimated two and a half years until the beginning of production—following environmental permitting, equipment selection, removing existing buildings, construction of the plant, equipment installation and startup.
Godfrey said wood products will help to alleviate the sting of lost pulp and paper manufacturing in the state. “Maine is devoid of pulp mills now. The amount of wood is considerable.” Environmentally speaking, he added that “building materials is the ultimate storage of carbon from the atmosphere. It’s basically locked up for good.”
Godfrey wouldn’t reveal the investment figure, but said it was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and he noted that the first million had come from the Maine Technology Institute.
International Paper built the Androscoggin Mill in 1965 and sold it to Verso Paper in 2006, which sold it to Pixelle Specialty Solutions in 2020. An explosion in the pulp digester area in spring 2020 did major damage and the mill never recovered.
An investment partnership purchased the property in early 2024, from which Godfrey Forest Products purchased just shy of 100 acres.
In recent years Godfrey was on the cusp of building an OSB plant at a procured site in Winslow, Ariz., as part of the U.S. Forest Service 4 Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI), which was intended to treat and improve forest health conditions on more than 2.5 million acres across four Arizona national forests while establishing wood products manufacturing and biomass processing infrastructure.  
But the Forest Service couldn’t piece the plan together and in 2021 canceled the bid-award phase, which included Godfrey’s bid for an OSB plant. In addition to a site for the plant, Godfrey had completed an engineering design, preliminary air work, and had a number of contractual relationships lined up.
    Educated at Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Godfrey’s career started in Maine with Great Northern Nekoosa where he held several manufacturing and financial positions, and oversaw timberlands. In 1980, he left GNN and formed Godfrey Forest Products to develop an OSB mill in northern Maine. The mill, at Houlton (New Limerick), was developed and built in a partnership with Louisiana-Pacific Corp. Shortly after startup in 1982, Godfrey sold his interest in the facility to L-P. He proceeded to develop and execute a plan for the first OSB mill in Europe, founding Highland Forest Products at Inverness, Scotland in 1983. He served as Managing Director and CEO of HFP through startup and into successful operation. After several years of operation, HFP was acquired by Norbord.
Godfrey then assembled an investment partnership to acquire a defunct particleboard mill at Miramichi, New Brunswick in 1994. He led the formation of Eagle Forest Products and Chatham Forest Products, which reconstructed the Miramichi mill into an updated OSB facility. The mill operated three years and was sold to MacMillan Bloedel.

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