The Catalyst Paper Mill had been operating since 1961 before closing its doors in late 2012. At one point the mill was the single largest employer in Navajo County. The power plant, which began commercial operations in June 2008, shut its doors in March of 2013, largely as a result of the closure of Catalyst. The closure of the two facilities accounted for the loss of over 300 local jobs.
Worsley, who is the majority owner and chairman of the new team, worked with local investors to repurchase the entire power complex. The purchase required over $12MM in working capital to restart the assets. The current team is being reassembled from former employees and management who were laid off when both facilities closed. Worsley, who has already begun rehiring workers, has pledged to rehire laid off employees who are still looking for work.
"I have a special place in my heart for the mountain communities. I was raised in Idaho and my best friends growing up in Boise were Flake’s from Snowflake,” said Worsley. “They would come home after vacation in Arizona and talk about the rodeos, and the great way of life in Snowflake. When my wife and I settled in Mesa we purchased property on the mountain because it was our way to stay connected with the pines.”
He added, “I made a commitment after the Rodeo Chediski fire in June 2002 that I would do everything in my power to prevent such a fire from happening again. After fighting the financial meltdown of 2008 and the paper mill closure of 2012, this new venture is a recommitment to the promise I made over 11 years ago.”
Novo Power, LLC will assist with targeted forest thinning and wildland urban interfaces around the small communities in Arizona that suffer from catastrophic wildfires like the Rodeo Chediski of 2002, Wallow of 2011, and the 2013 Yarnell fire. The biomass plant makes enough electricity from processing wood chips from pre-commercial thinning to power most of the residents in the White Mountains, approximately 20,000 homes.
Senator Worsley added that, "This is a win for Arizona. More water for the Roosevelt Watershed, more fire resistant communities, more renewable energy based in Arizona, and more jobs in the most economically depressed area of the state."