LP Houlton’s expanded plant is the first on the East Coast to manufacture a new product

NEW LIMERICK, Maine — Citing locals’ strong work ethic, Louisiana-Pacific officials said Wednesday that Aroostook County was a natural location for its plant to manufacture a new line of products.

LP Houlton officials unveiled the $150 million renovation of its factory for a group of business leaders, along with US Senator Susan Collins and Governor Janet Mills.

LP Building Solutions first announced the expansion of the LP Houlton facility in February 2021. In May, the company announced that it had completed the conversion, resulting in the first LP Houlton production of its SmartSide trim and siding . This is the first East Coast facility to manufacture the product for Louisiana-Pacific.

Louisiana Pacific Houlton celebrated the opening of its new $150 million production expansion at its New Limerick plant on Wednesday afternoon with a special ceremony. Pressing the button to restart the plant, left to right, US Senator Susan Collins, LP CEO Brad Southern and Maine Governor Janet Mills. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

The Louisiana-Pacific plant in New Limerick had generated countless slabs of oriented strand board – a type of engineered wood similar to particle board – during its more than 40 years of operation in the county of ‘Aroostook. But changes in the industry prompted the company to focus on an entirely new product.

LP SmartSide Trim and Siding is engineered wood strand technology that protects against hail, wind, moisture, fungal rot and termites. It’s one of the most durable home siding solutions on the market, the company said.

The conversion to manufacturing the new product will ensure the company’s viability in a changing economy and provide employment for approximately 160 people in the region.

“There were three facilities in the running,” LP CEO Brad Southern said. “Houlton became the main option for us for a number of reasons. We wouldn’t be here today without the unwavering support of the workforce here.

Availability of the aspen lumber needed to produce the engineered materials, as well as railroad distribution of the product were also key reasons for choosing Aroostook County, he said.

Watching how the siding is made at the LP Houlton factory on Wednesday afternoon is Maine Governor Janet Mills. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

The expansion will produce about 220 million square feet of LP’s flagship product per year, according to plant manager Nathan Whitney. This total is sufficient to support the construction of approximately 100,000 houses per year.

In fact, the demand for the new product is so high that there is already a growing waiting list.

“For decades, LP Houlton workers have produced Maine-made building materials used in homes across the country and around the world,” Mills said. “LP Houlton’s conversion will continue this proud heritage with the manufacture of LP’s iconic building products, while benefiting the local supply chain.

LP’s expansion is expected to require approximately 30% more wood fiber to meet capacity, which will benefit loggers, truckers and others in Maine’s forest products industry.

“I’m so excited about what I saw today,” Collins said. “This investment from Louisiana Pacific will not only secure jobs now, but will also help hire additional employees in the future. Moreover, the plant has stepped up its operations and is now operating 24/7, and this is good news for the economy of this region.

Maine Governor Janet Mills (center) and U.S. Senator Susan Collins (right) tour the new LP Houlton facility expansion on Wednesday afternoon. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Prior to the conversion, the plant operated five days a week, but with the change it will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plant officials also estimate that there will be a 30% increase in l use of logs, with the majority of the wood sourced from within a 60 mile radius of the mill.

Whitney said the conversion had permanently stabilized the company’s workforce.

“If you think about it, it’s not just the 160 employees and their families…it’s the log suppliers, the local company we buy tires from, down to the pizzeria down the street that matter on our business,” he said.