Geoff Verney of Monadnock Paper Mills

Posted on by

Monadnock Paper Mills

Located in Bennington, New Hampshire, Monadnock Paper Mills is the oldest continuously operating paper mill in the U.S., a leading supplier of top quality specialty paper, and one of LCI Paper’s most valued partners. Earlier in the week, I spoke to Geoff Verney, Vice President of Strategic Customer Relations & Corporate Communications who has been with Monadnock since 1974. The interview lasts 11 minutes and I think you’re going to be impressed with Monadnock’s commitment to their quality premium paper products and their innovation in protecting the Contoocook River and the surrounding environment. Enjoy the interview!

To save the audio to your computer, right click and “save as.”

Here is a transcription of the interview:

When I think of think of Monadnock, I associate the mountain that I used to climb as a kid with my youth group. Is your facility in that region?

It is, and we’re actually named for that mountain. As you probably know, the meaning of it is “one that stands alone.” And that’s the Native American definition and now is reflected in the design of our corporate logo.

How long has Monadnock been in business, and have you always been at the same location?

Monadnock was founded as the Bennington Paper Company in 1819, and it was founded it response to embargos imposed on the United States by Great Britain. And yes, in fact, it’s always been in its same location along the banks of the Contoocook River. There were additional mills further upstream, or downstream actually, in the area of what’s now the town of Antrim. But we’ve been here since 1819 and we’re the second oldest paper mill in America; the oldest in continuous operation.

Has living and working in a beautiful state like New Hampshire influenced your desire to put the environment first?

Absolutely. We live here. The family that owns the mill lives in the immediate vicinity as do all the people that work here. And I think we feel an obligation to make sure that the place we live and the place we work is maintained to a very high level. We’ve always felt that way and it was reflected years ago in the care that my father Gilbert Verney took with the landscaping of the property around the mill. I’m not sure there’s a prettier mill site in North America.

What are some of the elements of success that makes your uncoated printing papers so popular and so respected?

Well, we have always come to work to make the best sheet of paper we can every day. And some time ago, we evolved from being a pure printing and writing paper mill to a mill that was capable of technical and specialty papers as well. And these were papers that we test and design to meet particular end use requirements of individual customers or markets. That involved obtaining a fairly sophisticated staff for research and development work. Product development work as well. And I think that that blend, over the years, really beginning back in the early ’60s, was a great mix to assure that all the papers we make are extraordinarily well made. They’re well designed to begin with, and watched over with a real eagle eye for quality.

In many cases, even in some printing applications that are typical for the kinds of papers we supply your company, our paper represents perhaps the largest material purchase. And on that basis, we have to take our supplier relationship very seriously. If something happens to our paper, sometimes that can shut a customer down. So we don’t want to do that. And I can say that whether it’s a specialty printing application or a vacuum filter bag application or a sandpaper backing or a sterilizable medical application, we’ve never shut a customer down for lack of material that was first quality.

Can you tell me about your recycling facility and waste management processes that include Monadnock in the EPA’s Waste Wise program.

Essentially, we’ve committed to demonstrate that we will reduce our waste and recycling techniques over time. And it involves, essentially, a variety of steps and programs. So, they can all be slightly different. But they have to, I believe, demonstrate that we are making progress and we continue to do so. So, one of the things that we do and are very proud of is that 100% of our short paper fiber is reclaimed and used for a variety of applications. It’s used as animal bedding, compost, soil enrichment, and that sort of thing. And that’s essentially a bi-product of our water purification system where we take out solids from that waste stream. We’re also reducing our energy consumption. We changed our lighting. The list really goes on and it’s fairly extensive.

Tell me about your on site water power. You mentioned that the facility is near a river, right?

Right. We operate several hydroelectric generators both within the mill and upstream along several dams. And we are capable, depending on how much rain and snow melt we get each year, of generating up to 60% of our electrical requirement. But of course that varies depending on how much water is running through the river. This is a facility that has been owned by the mill since the early ’20s and it’s a very low-impact, fish-friendly environment.

And what was the river, the name again?

The name of the river is the Contoocook. C-O-N-T-O-O-C-O-O-K river. It’s one of, I believe, two, that flows north in this hemisphere. And it flows north into the Merrimack [river].

How has the community responded to your strides in becoming green? I imagine local, state, and federal authorities are very pleased.

I think they are. There’s no question in my mind that through our environmental manager, Michelle Hamm, is one of several who have done a yeoman’s job for us over the years. We really do have the respect, I believe, of the state government and those who are interested in keeping the state and its rivers clean. We participated with the local advisory committee in obtaining certification for this river for protection and management with the local rivers act that was passed in the New Hampshire legislature. So, we’ve been extraordinarily cooperative and we continue to weigh in on issues regarding the environment, particularly the river and water quality, on a regular basis.

LCI currently carries lines of Astrolite, Caress, and more recently, Astrolite PC 100 papers. I’d like to learn about the specifics of what goes into each line, is possible.

Well, our printing and writing papers, all of which essentially constitutes the grades that you’ve discussed, are made with either virgin and or recycled fibers. Astrolite, Caress, and Dulcet are longstanding lines with us. They’re premium lines, if you will, made to extremely high formation standards and essentially composed of approximately 75% hardwood, 25% softwood, the latter adding strength and the former providing uniform formation and ultimately what becomes your printing or decorating surface. That’s essentially what goes into Astrolite, Caress, and Dulcet. Astrolite PC 100 is a 100% post consumer waste fiber sheet. FSC certified (Forest Stewardship Council certified). And again, the recycled fibers perhaps more like hardwood than softwood, if you will.

But we mix everything in the hydropulper. We don’t cop up down line, so that the mixture binds and blends extraordinarily well from the inception of the grade. Coloration is also done right in the hydropulper as well so that everything mixes together and hopefully fixes extraordinarily well. We add fillers to the furnish of all grades, whether it’s PC 100 or Astrolite, Caress, and Dulcet, which is a clay or titanium or a calcium carbonate, depending on the grade. And these fill in the little spaces between fibers and tend to smooth out the sheet. But Astrolite, Caress, and Dulcet are virgin fiber papers where as Astrolite PC 100 is a recycled paper.

And what about Monadnock’s relationship with LCI Paper?

Well, we’re very pleased to be a supplier and I think that it’s enormously gratifying when people who use our paper use it for good reasons and for good purposes. We always want to be a company that supplies the highest quality paper to whoever our customer may be. And just having this interview I think is an enormous flattery for Monadnock to be asked to tell a little bit about itself. Many times we’re a little further downstream and to some degree forgotten. But again, we’re delighted to be appreciated and part of what we perceive to be a very high quality company such as LCI. So we appreciate your confidence with us and hope that we can become an ever-increasing, of greater importance to you as a supplier over the years.

Well, one thing that we’re doing that I’m very proud of, I mean, these have been very tough times. It’s been a time of enormous, enormous inflation in terms of our fuel sources and our fiber sources. Everything has gone through the roof. It may be abetting now under the current economic circumstances, but we’ve resisted very heavily changing anything. We want to make sure that we don’t cheaper our furnishes, we don’t change our products, and that we maintain the high quality of product that people kind of come to know us by. And I think that really counts because I know that not everybody is playing the same way. And we’ve also, always taken our environmental responsibilities to heart, and we did it long, long before others did. And I’ll tell you that our waste water treatment facility, installed in 1973, was installed prior to the EPA even having published guideline specifications for waste water treatment facilities. So when we built it, it’s essentially lasted and stood us in good shape through today. We really overbuilt it. And then we added this de-watering facility which I described in terms of the short paper fiber that we reclaim and use as animal bedding and other applications. But we were way out in front of this, essentially making drinking water. And we did it all with our own dough. No state, federal, or local funds were used, not that we didn’t try to solicit them. And we’ve been on a roll ever since. We’re an ISO 14001 company which is very important. It basically means that everything we do is documented in terms of environmental impact. So from bringing raw materials into the mill to shipping and delivering materials to our customers, we know where we leave our footprint. And it allows us to improve and it also hopefully gives customers some confidence that we want to make a difference environmentally. So that’s what we’re up to and I don’t think we’ll ever change.

Follow LCI Paper on Twitter

This entry was posted in Creative Ideas and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.