I went up to Berlin today to gather some voices for this story I’m putting together for NHPR on the reaction to the sale of the Cascade mill. What a great day. I ran into person after person I knew, and I probably spent more time chatting with friends and catching up than I did pushing my microphone in people’s faces. Of course I asked everyone I knew about what their reaction to the mill sale was, but only some of them did I lure on tape.
And I was reminded of it once again—what a tight-knit community the North Country is. I went to the WREN farmers market, where people I knew were organizing, selling, performing, shopping and visiting. It was like all of the Androscoggin Valley was coming out to visit.
My voice got hoarse from all the chatting, but the discussion about the mill was also riveting. I’ve been away for a bit, and to swoop in now for NHPR is less than ideal, but luckily I’ve got enough people there that I know who are willing to talk to me. The locals are optimistic but scared. They are hopeful the company that bought the facility will make an honest go of finding a partner and making paper, but they don’t know if it’s going to happen.
The average age of the Cascade mill worker is 58, I was told, and there isn’t much else out there for them. They have to be hopeful. But it sounds like the company has also been straightforward with the workers. If they can’t make it the business run, they’ll tear the mill down and cut their losses.
When that’s all you’ve known, what choice do you have but to harbor a bit of fear? It’s understandable, but it’s also good to see the Androscoggin Valley soldiering on. They’ve had a rough decade, but they haven’t lost their optimism. There were more smiles today than looks of trepidation, even though the timeline for those 237 jobs to come back isn’t clear. That’s a testament to the resolve of the community, and the individual workers who make it up.