Smurfit-Stone site update: Silent plant, active ownership
At the end of December 2009, the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. plant was silenced and shuttered. The announcement of job loss hit the community hard. Eighteen months later, Green Investment Group, a development company with a strong track record of renewing brownfield sites, purchased the property and renewed hope that jobs might soon return to the 3,200-acre facility.
Since that time, the company created a new subsidiary M2 Green Redevelopment LLC, which legally owns the property. It ensured future job growth in rail transportation by contracting with Montana Rail Link to supply rail service to businesses that locate on the site. And it is conducting ongoing discussions with potential businesses toward bringing the site back to life. Initial interest is coming from a variety of potential employers:
- A pellet manufacturer from Seattle/British Columbia toured the facility in October; this prospect was referred to M2 Green by Missoula Economic Partnership.
- A wind turbine manufacturer from England participated in a recent site inventory conference call (coordinated by the Partnership); this lead looks very promising.
- A market-proven gasification producer with local ties is being pursued.
- An ethanol producer is in early discussions with M2 Green.
- Two wood chipping operations have approached M2 Green directly.
Here at the Partnership, we are working closely with M2 Green on a number of Smurfit-related redevelopment activities in addition to facilitating referrals.
We collaborated with the BitterRoot Regional Economic Development District (BREDD) and pursued a Big Sky Trust Fund grant to help underwrite costs for several strategic activities, including a feasibiliy study to identify best-fit industries for the site. What’s more, we partnered directly with M2 Green by providing a portion of the cash match to the grant. The work paid off. In mid-November, the Montana Department of Commerce announced that BREDD would receive a $25,000 grant to help fund the project. A steering team will now be formed composed of M2 Green, BREDD and the Partnership to provide input, direction and oversight of the research and planning activities involved in the redevelopment effort.
The Partnership staff has spent significant time with M2 Green touring and learning all we can about the site. We witnessed M2 Green’s selective demolition of antiquated buildings, machinery and equipment (mainly in the paper manufacturing center). We can attest that there remain significant assets and infrastructure in place, due in part to the professional diligence of outgoing Smurfit employees; most of the reusable components can be put back into productivity in short order. M2 Green recognizes this and is grateful to those employees.
Lastly, we are also actively working to market the facility. In fact, as stated earlier, our efforts have led to several very promising leads.
We encourage you to follow progress on the site master plan and redevelopment by reading our updates posted here. We will make announcements as information is available. If you or someone you know is interested in locating at the site, please contact the Partnership. We’ll be happy to connect you (or them) with the right people at M2 Green.