Life After Paper Mills: Parchment

Posted at 10:54 PM, Sep 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-30 22:54:16-04

PARCHMENT, Mich. – Along the banks of the Kalamazoo River, in the city of Parchment, stands a monument in no condition to reflect the identity of a community.

The shattered windows and crumbling walls of the old Crown Vantage Paper Mill form an expansive scar through the middle of town.

The question is; Can investors see beyond the obvious?

A question that was asked 12 years ago when the final ream of paper rolled out of the mill.

“At the height of its production it was around 24 hundred employees,” said Parchment City Manager Dennis Durham.

Without the mill the population of the entire city of Parchment is 1,900 people.  The 85-acre plant alone was responsible for 50% of the city’s tax base.

“The citizens that come through city hall in Parchment want it done tomorrow,” said Durham.  “I myself want it to be done tomorrow.  We want new businesses in Parchment on this property but the economic reality is that things are different these days and things are moving slower.”

Unlike other paper mill towns in West Michigan, progress in Parchment is tied to the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency.  According to the EPA there are no massive pollution concerns in the ground water around the plant so slowly a foundation is laid for investment.

“They want to see roadway infrastructure,” said Durham.  “so now that this is done, this kind of project is a lot more attractive to a potential developer.”

Developers have shown interest, according to Durham.  15 acres have been cleared and prepped for the next business venture.  As one company invests in the site taxes will help fund phase two which is demolition of the portion of the plant still standing.

As each day passes, the potential for trespassers, looters, and injuries on the property grows.

“We have to make special efforts that police are going through the mill property.  That we are keeping our eyes open for trespassers.”

In September, a portion of the plant caught fire.  The cause remains unknown and city leaders hope the money for phase two will come before another disaster strikes or something worse happens.