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Anatomy of the deal that helped purchase Westvaco

For nearly 20 months, the former Westvaco paper mill sat idle.
Many in Tyrone heard rumors of opportunities coming to the property. A Budweiser brewery, a bottled water company and many others were talked about by the community. In the background, there was a rumor that the mill was going to be bought by a group of local people and former mill employees, but everything about that rumor was hush hush. Finally, yesterday, Team Ten LLC announced its deal to purchase the mill from Westvaco.
John Ferner, who had previously served as the personnel manager for the Westvaco mill, now serves as president of Team Ten LLC, was happy to announce the deal yesterday. The deal for the mill was for $ 3 million and the start-up capital from investors and federal and state money totals another $9.5 million putting the opening of the American Eagle Paper Mill at a price tag of $12.5 million.
An investor in Team Ten LLC, Harry Sickler spoke of how tough it was to get a deal done.
“We had a hard time convincing anybody, especially when we weren’t allowed to keep the coating machines in here,” said Sickler. “That turned some of the manufacturing people away because they wanted paper with the coating. Even John Harris, the former superintendent, who I have the greatest amount of admiration for, John, is Mr. Paper Mill and is known throughout the whole country as Mr. Paper Mill. He even has come on board and said with the work force you are going to have and the ethics and the facility, he is convinced now that it is going to fly.”
Sickler, a long time Tyrone resident and supporter of the community in more ways than people know, is proud of the events that unfolded yesterday.
“I am just so proud,” said Sickler. “It seems like yesterday when we were getting the Town for Hire story and Mark Laird and I were talking about this and the first layoff back in the 70s.”
The opening of the mill will bring 170 jobs back to the Tyrone community. When Westvaco closed the plant on October 31, 2001, there were 265 employed at the Tyrone facility.
“This is such a big jump start for the community and the area,” Sickler added. “Manufacturing jobs are an important thing because they create other jobs such as service jobs. You can open 100 McDonalds and a community won’t survive. Now McDonalds and all these other service businesses will come because of the manufacturing jobs.”
Sickler was thankful to the people of the Tyrone community.
“I thank all the community people,” said Sickler. “Now that the people will start putting their applications in and getting back to work. I don’t envy John (Ferner) and his people for streaming all the applications. He is the right man for the job and his heart is in the right place. We’re going to need good people. That is what it is going to take. That is what made good paper here before and what it will take in the future.”
The dealings started in earnest in August 2002, but really started the day it was announced that the plant was closing.
“There were several times that it looked like it wouldn’t come about,” said Ferner. “It was a very complex project. There were a lot of hurdles, a lot of delays. If you want something good to happen, you need to have the patience.”
Ferner said that it didn’t take long to get the investment group together.
“We assembled the initial 10 investors in a short amount of time,” said Ferner. We added a couple investors along the way.”
The final piece of the puzzle was the $3 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program.
The Daily Herald asked Ferner if the money didn’t come from the Governor’s office, would it have broke the deal?
“I don’t know if it would have been a deal breaker,” said Ferner. “I can say that it was a deal maker.”
Team Ten is operating on a confidential sales agreement with Westvaco and should close on the mill within the next three weeks.
The work force of 170 is expected to be a mix of former mill employees and new workers.
“We will initially look at former employees in key positions,” said Ferner. “After that, we will look at everybody who applies. We need experience to run the mill efficiently, quickly.”
The average salary is expected to be $14 hourly with a low end scale of $10 per hour and the high end hourly rate of $17.