It has operated under a variety of names, but most of us refer to it as “the Luke Mill,” and it has been operating here for 125 years.
Allegany County economic and community development director recently called it “a pillar of this community,” and that’s as good a description as any.
The mill’s importance to Allegany County and Garrett counties in Maryland and Mineral County in West Virginia cannot be overstated. The number of families who have had breadwinners employed there must be astounding.
Currently, the mill has 830 employees. The town where it operates — Luke — was named after the mill’s founder, William Luke, who bought the land and facilities of a saw mill that had provided crossties for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
Currently owned by NewPage Corporation, the mill also has operated under the names of Piedmont Pulp and Paper Company, West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company and Westvaco Corporation.
Once regarded as a major threat to the environment, the mill and its owners have spent millions of dollars to drastically reduce pollution. Many more millions have been invested to modernize equipment and improve safety.
The mill continues to operate successfully in spite of what many feel is unfair competition from foreign government-subsidized paper producers.
It has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to the community, not just in terms of providing jobs but through corporate and individual employees’ encouragement of, participation in, and contributions to local charities, organizations and the education establishment.
The mill and its employees have been the type of neighbors any community would like to have. Happy anniversary, and may there be many more.