UPDATED: Investment Group Buys Former Smurfit-Stone Plant

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – An investment group that acquires and redevelops industrial sites said Wednesday it has bought the Smurfit-Stone paper mill in Frenchtown for around $20 million.

M2 Green Development, an affiliate of Illinois-based Green Investment Group, says it is still deciding what it will do with the 3,200-acre site along the Clark Fork River. The paper mill closed in January 2010 after operating for 53 years, putting about 400 people out of work.

Green Investment Group principal Ray Stillwell says the company’s goal is to work with the community to develop a site that complements other industries in the area and creates jobs in sustainable growth industries.

M2 Green anticipates a $5 million initial investment and an overall investment of $40 million in the site.

Instead of one large, job-producing paper plant, the investment group hopes to attract smaller, green businesses focused on recycling and alternative energy. The group says it already has local contractors working on the task.

The sale was agreed upon by Smurfit-Stone and MLR Investments, which signed a buy-sell agreement for the site earlier this year.

MLR, a subsidiary of Ralston Investments of Portland, Ore., indicated in February it would demolish the mill buildings, a plan that was decried by local leaders and Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The governor, who was at the mill for Wednesday’s announcement, called Green Investment Group’s business plan “second to none that I know of in converting these brownfield sites into new green opportunities.

“We’re here to announce that scrapper will not tear down this plant,” he said, referring to MLR. “That gate will open, and there’ll be jobs and opportunity inside.”

The Frenchtown mill is the seventh abandoned Smurfit-Stone facility the investment group has purchased with similar intent. Three of the first six are in Canada.

Stillwell says the group will start hiring people immediately to begin cleaning up the site and reconfiguring its plans.

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