Going going gone

December 5, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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The former Sappi paper mill site on Muskegon Lake has already been mentioned as a potential location for the proposed Michigan Energy and Technology Center, but it might be sold and off the market before the wind energy consortium gets airborne.

“I am quite open to helping or providing facilities for the future of the Wind Energy Development in West Michigan. I am, however, at this time actively seeking more immediate development opportunities with other industrially based companies needing deep water dock access and manufacturing/warehouse space,” said Doug Melching in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

Melching is the president of Melching Inc., a demolition, dismantling and industrial remediation services company in Nunica that acquired the shuttered 120-acre paper mill last summer from Sappi Fine Paper of South Africa.

“We are currently in the process of dismantling the obsolete paper-making structures and upgrading or maintaining the remaining modern 40 megawatt powerhouse, and 300,000-square-foot warehouse,” said Melching. “At the same time, we are in the process of developing the 4,000-plus feet of shoreline to improve ship access and future commercial marine vessel repairs.”

Melching said he had been visited by L-3/Rockford Bergé, and expressed “great interest” and willingness to work with them.

“If there is a more immediate need regarding the Wind Energy Development, I am ready and willing to step up. Regardless, we are moving forward with the 120-acre site development, which will take several years to complete. Our efforts will be focused on development of Muskegon industry and job creation,” added Melching.

Mike Murphy of Harbourpointe Realty Co. in Nunica, who is marketing the Sappi site for Melcher, said he has a letter of intent from a potential buyer of the Sappi power plant, which may result in its sale before the end of this year. At least three dock companies also have expressed interest in the part of the Sappi site on Muskegon Lake.

Murphy said he expects “these deals all should close within the next six months.”

Sappi Fine Paper’s terms of the sale to Melching Inc. stipulate that the property can only be used for industrial purposes, because Sappi does not want to be held responsible for future environmental remediation costs if there was an attempt made to develop it for residential purposes. The site was a paper mill for more than 100 years, most of the time under previous owners.

“I kind of joke that we’re going to sell out before these guys get their wheels going,” said Murphy, referring to the Michigan Wind Energy Consortium.

“We think we’re moving pretty fast — going to create a few jobs here immediately,” he added. The wind energy consortium has “a good idea to bring jobs, but I think they are a little further down the road” than Melching Inc.

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